A P-63 King Cobra and B-17G Flying Fortress collide at a air show at Dallas Executive Airport on November 13th.
In Dallas Texas on November 12th, a Boeing B-17G and a Bell P-63 King Cobra collided in mid-air just a few hundred feet over the runway. Both aircraft were completely destroyed in the mishap killing an unknown number of people on both aircraft.
The B-17G was the “Texas Raiders” belonging to the Commemorative Air Force and carried the markings of WWII’s 8th Air Force 1st Air Division, 381st Bombardment Group (Heavy), 533rd Bombardment Squadron. While the US built more than 12,700 Flying Fortresses before and during WWII, very few have survived the march of time. Texas Raiders was one of only 3 Fortresses still in flying condition.
The Commemorative Air Force issued a statement last night on its Facebook page with the following,
“This afternoon, two aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision at Dallas Executive Airport. The aircraft were a P-63 Kingcobra and Texas Raiders.
Currently, we do not have information on the status of the flight crews as emergency responders are working the accident.
The Commemorative Air Force is working with local authorities and the FAA, and the NTSB will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident.”
The P-63 King Cobra was also a Commemorative Air Force aircraft performing at the same air show. In various video angles of the mishap, a mixed group of fighters and at least two bombers are flying over the runway at the Dallas Executive Airport, among them the Texas Raiders B-17G. Suddenly, a P-63 King Cobra appears above the B-17 making a shallow, diving left turn at overtaking speed. The B-17 is hit from above on the left side with the right wing of the P-63 severing the tail of the bomber and disintegrating into pieces. Both planes then plummet to the ground from only a few hundred feet up, presumably killing all those aboard both aircraft.
Videos taken by spectators at the event show various angles of the crash that will aid FAA investigators in determining the cause of the fatal mishap. The names of the lost pilots and crewmembers are being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.
Air shows are pretty tightly scripted events with aircraft in the air. An FAA representative is generally present. When planes are in the air, they are still under air traffic control even though certain regulations like speed limits and altitudes. Air show performers also attend detailed briefings where minimum separations and altitudes are laid out for the pilots.
Airshow crashes are fairly rare occurrences but flying close to the ground with a gaggle WWII aircraft some 80 years old is inherently dangerous in every case.
The part of the airshow where the collision took place was a flyby of aircraft with the bombers being escorted by fighters like the P-63. What appears to have happened was a failed overtaking maneuver where the pilot lost sight of the B-17 below him as he attempted to pass the big bomber on his left side and was going too fast.
The P-63 King Cobra actually has good visibility in the cockpit. Unlike most of the fighter planes at the time, The pilot is seated forward of the leading edge of the wing and the nose is relatively short compared to the P-51, Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, and F-4U Corsair all of which had severe forward visibility problems, but none of the pilots in any of these aircraft can see what is below his plane.