Michael Williams, Jamie Landers and Lana Ferguson
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — The mid-air collision between two historic aircraft at a Dallas air show on Saturday killed six people, including two deeply loved Keller-area men who had been pilots for decades, according to officials and friends of the victims.
While authorities have not publicly identified any of those killed, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed the death toll from the crash was six in a tweet early Sunday. The collision involved two World War II-era planes, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra.
Allied Pilots, a union representing American Airlines pilots, identified two of the B-17 crew as former union members. The union identified them as Terry Barker, 67, and Len Root, 66.
Both Root and Barker were based around Keller, according to their friends and social media profiles.
Root had worked as a commercial pilot and manager for Commemorative Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing since October 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile. Before that, he was a flight management system program controller and flight director for American Airlines for more than 35 years. He also studied aviation law and business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Barker was a former Keller city councilman who was also an Army veteran, husband and father, the city’s mayor, Armin Mizani, posted on Facebook.
“Terry Barker was beloved by many,” Mizani wrote. “He was a friend and someone whose guidance I often sought. Even after retiring from serving on the City Council and flying for American Airlines, his love for community was unmistakable.”
Mizani added a Veterans Day display of 1,776 American flags in front of Keller Town Hall will remain an additional week in Barker’s honor.
John Baker, a former American Airlines colleague of Barker’s, said the two met several years ago while both were based out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Both were tech airmen instructor pilots conducting training until Barker retired about two years ago after 36 years with the airline.
He told The Dallas Morning News Barker was a family man with a servant’s heart.
“He was really an enthusiast of aviation,” Baker said, adding that Barker had a hangar at the Northwest Regional Airport in Denton County where he spent a lot of time refurbishing a Beechcraft AT-6.
After his retirement, Barker got involved with the commemorative air force and flying the B-17, Baker said.
“He had great people skills and communication skills,” Baker said. “He also had a great sense of humor and was very professional.”
The Wings Over Dallas air show was scheduled to run from Friday to Sunday at Dallas Executive Airport. It was canceled after Saturday’s collision.
The event described itself as North Texas’ largest World War II air show. Thousands were watching from the airfield and nearby businesses Saturday, including World War II and American military history buffs who were drawn to the show because only a small amount of aircraft from the war remain airborne today.
The flight demonstration portion of the show began about 11 a.m. local time Saturday, according to a schedule posted on the air show’s website. One listed event was described as a parade of several types of bombers, including the B-17.
The next item listed on the schedule was a fighter escort involving a P-63. It’s unclear from the schedule whether both events were to take place at the same time.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a workhorse bomber that saw combat in both theaters of the Second World War. More than 12,000 B-17s were produced in various models, according to Boeing. Most were scrapped after the war ended in 1945. Very few remain today.
P-63s were developed during World War II, but never saw combat, according to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. More than 3,300 were produced. The aircraft was sometimes used for training, and several thousand were exported to the Soviet Union as part of a lend-lease agreement.
Video posted on social media shows the P-63 banking, and colliding directly with the B-17, which was flying straight. The impact immediately disintegrated the P-63 and split the B-17 in half, with the front half of the fuselage exploding in flames as it hit the ground.
Nobody on the ground was injured or killed, authorities said.
On Sunday morning, officials from several local and federal agencies, including Dallas Fire-Rescue, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were surveying the crash scene.
Airplane crash investigations are notoriously lengthy and complicated. According to the NTSB website, crash investigations can take five years or more to complete. The average time is about two to three years. It’s unclear if the fact that Saturday’s crash was widely filmed will accelerate the timeline of the investigation.
Preliminary reports should be submitted within five days, according to the NTSB website.
Jamie Landers, Isabella Volmert, Aria Jones and Noor Adatia
The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS — Two vintage warplanes collided in midair Saturday afternoon during the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas show at Dallas Executive Airport.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra crashed about 1:20 p.m. Dozens of Dallas Fire-Rescue vehicles responded to the airport on Challenger Drive in the Red Bird area.
It was unclear how many people were aboard the aircraft. According to Dallas Fire-Rescue, the number of causalities was unknown as of 4:15 p.m. Central, but the department confirmed that no injuries were reported among people on the ground.
The Commemorative Air Force said both planes were based out of Houston.
In videos shared on social media, the P-63 was seen colliding into the back of the B-17 as it made a turn. The front of the B-17 broke off, and the plane’s wings erupted into flames as they hit the ground.
An onlooker said “Oh my God!” in Spanish, and a large cloud of black smoke could be seen from the field where dozens of people were standing to watch the show overhead. In another video, a child could be heard asking, “Was that supposed to happen?”
Dallas Fire-Rescue said debris from the collision was strewn across the airport grounds, a nearby strip mall and nearby Highway 67. A section of the highway in southern Dallas was closed to traffic for hours.
At the airport’s entrance, police were directing traffic and letting drivers know the facility was closed. A long line of cars could be seen exiting the airport.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the collision.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called the crash a “terrible tragedy in our city” in a tweet, adding that many details about the incident were still unknown.
“The videos are heartbreaking,” he wrote. “Please, say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families today.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his wife, Heidi, were praying for the people involved. “The images of this collision are incredibly distressing and we pray for the safety of everyone on the scene,” he wrote on Twitter.
Christopher Kratovil attended the aircraft show with his 12-year-old daughter, Kelsey, who shares his interest in World War II planes and history. They were among thousands of people who witnessed the crash.
When Kratovil saw the planes collide, he initially thought it might have been part of the show.
”Then it occurred to me, wait, they don’t have the capability to create a midair fireball or a midair crash,” he said. “They can’t simulate something like that, and it hit me — wow, this is real, and I can’t believe I’m witnessing a B-17 explode midair.”
Brandi Crawford and Bob Kerr, who hadn’t heard about the crash, arrived at the airport for a show set to start at 2:30 p.m., only to find the airport was closed.
”We saw a lot of traffic on the way here,” Kerr said. “We didn’t realize that it was because of a crash. I’m really concerned for the pilots and hopefully they’re OK.”
Crawford, an Air Force veteran, said Saturday was an important time to remember veterans — particularly their contributions to the Air Force and in World War II.
”There aren’t many World War II veterans left to tell us the stories and to learn from,” Crawford said.
”They were the greatest generation,” Kerr said. “Any chance I get to see what they did for us is something that I think is well worthwhile.”
Wings Over Dallas is an aircraft show hosted by the Commemorative Air Force, an organization dedicated to preserving World War II aircraft that’s based at the airport, which was formerly known as Redbird Airport.
Saturday was scheduled to be the second day of a three-day show held over Veterans Day weekend, but Friday’s events were canceled because of inclement weather. The organization’s website showed events were also scheduled to take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The schedule for Saturday’s events included a parade of bomber planes, including the B-17, followed by fighter escorts including the P-63.
The CAF was founded as a nonprofit group in 1961, and the weekend show was part of the CAF’s Air Power History Tour, advertised as a national tour of WWII aircraft. The tour advertises that its shows include one or both of FIFI, a Boeing B-29 Superfortress, or Diamond Lil, a B-24 Liberator, — extremely rare aircraft — among a number of other planes.
According to the CAF, out of the 12,731 B-17s produced by Boeing, Vega, and Douglas worldwide, only five can actively fly.
”It’s really tragic to lose one of the last operational B-17s in the world,” Kratovil said. “It’s an important part of American history, it’s an important part of world history.”
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