DALLAS — Shortly before a mid-air collision that killed six people at a Dallas air show, a group of historic fighter jets were ordered to fly in front of a formation of bombers without a prior altitude coordination plan, according to an Am Federal report released Wednesday. The report did not name a cause for the crash.
A P-63 Kingcobra fighter was banked to the left when it struck a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber behind the left wing during an air show Nov. 12 with World War II-era aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board said in its preliminary results. All six people on board the planes – the fighter pilot and the bomber pilot, the co-pilot and three crew members – died when both planes broke apart in flight, the bomber catching fire and exploding on impact.
There was no coordination of altitudes in pre-flight briefings or while the planes were in the air, the NTSB said. The report stated that the Kingcobra was third in a formation of three fighters and the B-17 was the lead of a five-ship bomber formation.
Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesman, said the agency is trying to determine the sequence of maneuvers that led to the crash. It is also checked whether altitude reduction plans are usually in place for such air shows.
“Those are exactly the kinds of questions our investigators ask,” Weiss said. “How was the process? What is the right process? And what happened?”
John Cox, a former airline captain with more than 50 years of experience, was surprised that the NTSB found that there were no altitude resolution instructions before or during the flight. He said these are held at other air shows, but he’s not sure if they’re standard for the Commemorative Air Force, which hosted the Wings over Dallas show.
One person familiar with the day’s show operations said the flight crews received a general altitude briefing at their morning pre-show briefing. However, there was no discussion of specific altitudes for any flight the plane would make, said the person, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
Usually, fighters fly over bombers, and when a group is called to make a pass that could bring planes to the same or nearly the same altitude, they keep a lateral distance from each other, the person said. In general, the person continued, it is the responsibility of the air chief to establish a plan for maintaining either vertical or lateral separation.
Wings Over Dallas was the group’s last show this season, the person said.
The NTSB said the battle formation was ordered by the air force chief to go to a line 500 feet (152 meters) from where the crowd lined up at Dallas Executive Airport, while the bomber formation was ordered 1,000 feet (304 meters) from the spectator area.
The NTSB said a navigation device on the bomber “contained positional information relevant to the accident,” but a device on the fighter did not record in-flight.
The Commemorative Air Force, which hosted the Veterans Day show, said Wednesday that it continues to work with the NTSB and is grateful for that agency’s “diligence” in “investigating anything that may have been a factor in the accident.” could have caused”. The group said it could not speculate on the cause of the crash.
The Commemorative Air Force previously identified the victims as: Terry Barker, Craig Hutain, Kevin “K5” Michels, Dan Ragan, Leonard “Len” Root and Curt Rowe.
All of the men were volunteers who had gone through a rigorous process of logging hours and training flights and were carefully screened, Commemorative Air Force CEO Hank Coates said after the crash.
Cox said the planes were flown by experienced pilots and it was “virtually certain” that the pilot of the smaller, more maneuverable fighter jet did not see the bomber. He said understanding how this happened will be a key challenge for investigators.
“What happened that two pilots of this skill level landed in the same airspace at the same time?” said Cox, founder of Safety Operating Systems, which helps smaller airlines and corporate flight services around the world with safety planning.
The collision with an air show came three years after a bomber crashed in Connecticut that killed seven people and amid ongoing concerns about the safety of shows featuring older fighter jets.
A cornerstone of the US Air Force during World War II, the B-17 is a huge four-engined bomber used in daylight raids on Germany. The Kingcobra, a US fighter aircraft, was primarily used by Soviet forces during the war. Most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II, and Boeing says only a handful remain today, mostly on display at museums and air shows.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/01/reports-say-dallas-air-show-had-no-altitude-advice-before-crash/ The Dallas Air Show had reportedly not given any altitude guidance prior to the crash