NTSB releases first report in fatal Dallas air show crash

News
Damage from a midair collision between two planes sits on the grounds of the Dallas Executive Airport on Nov. 12.


Lana Ferguson, Jamie Landers

The Dallas Morning News

Federal authorities have released an initial report about the midair collision at a Dallas air show that killed six people earlier this month.

Although it will take months for the National Transportation Safety Board to complete its final report on the crash at Dallas Executive Airport, the agency’s preliminary report provided new details about what happened during the air show.

Here are key takeaways from the report:

Cause not yet determined

The four-page report did not determine a cause for the collision. Experts have previously said that human error was likely a factor, but investigators will also consider mechanical problems, medical records and the weather.

The NTSB’s final report will take 12 to 18 months to finish. Michael Graham, an NTSB member, said the federal agency will “methodically and systematically” review all evidence and consider “all potential factors to determine probable cause.”

Flight data

Neither aircraft had a flight data recorder — a plane’s so-called black box — but investigators recovered other devices from the wreckage and sent them to a lab in Washington, D.C., to see whether any data could be retrieved.

A GPS unit in the Bell P-63 Kingcobra “did not record any information for the accident flight,” the report says, but a navigational unit from the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “contained position information relevant to the accident.”

Radio transmissions

Recorded audio from the air show’s radio transmission provided insight into the crews’ final communications.

Just before the collision, the air show’s air boss was directing a three-aircraft fighter formation that included the P-63 and a five-ship bomber formation that included the B-17. The air boss instructed both formations to travel southwest of the runway before returning to the air show’s designated performance area.

Final maneuver

According to the report, the air boss told the fighter plans to go into a trail formation — when aircraft fly directly under and behind the leading plane — and fly in front of the bombers.

The fighters were told to proceed near the 500-foot show line, while the bombers were to travel along the 1,000-foot show line — the distances that aircraft could be from the show’s audience. The report says no altitude maneuvers were discussed before the flight or while the planes were in the air.

When the fighter formation approached the performance area, the report says, the P-63 was in a left bank and collided with the left side of the B-17.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Visit dallasnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.