The Houston-based warbirds collided at 1:22 p.m. Central time, a tragedy that canceled the remainder of the three-day airshow scheduled to go through November 13. Graphic videos released on social media showed the two aircraft colliding at high speed. (Warning: Viewer beware that the midair collision footage is graphic.)
NTSB Member Michael Graham said five crewmembers on the B–17 and the pilot of the P–63 were fatally injured but did not release any names; there were no injuries on the ground. He also told media that it was too early to determine whether pilot error or mechanical problems were involved and that a preliminary report would be released in four to six weeks, with a final report likely 12 to 18 months away.
The majority of the wreckage landed on airport property and what was outside the airport has been collected and turned over to the NTSB, Graham said. The NTSB is working with the FAA and CAF. Investigators are securing audio recordings from the tower; neither of the warbirds were equipped with flight data or cockpit voice recorders (and were not required to be). In addition, investigators have started interviewing formation crews and airshow operations staff, surveyed the accident site by drone, taken photographs by ground, and requested pilot training and aircraft maintenance records from the CAF. They are also analyzing radar and ground footage to determine the exact location of the midair.
Graham asked anyone who had photos or videos of the accident to send them to the NTSB via email.
During a press conference just hours after the accident, CAF President and CEO Hank Coates said the organization “is an extremely close-knit family” and that “the pilots are very well trained.” This was the seventh year the CAF had hosted the airshow at its headquarters in Dallas. The three-day event was billed as “the Nation’s Premiere World War II Airshow.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved in the accident and their families,” the CAF said in a statement on its website November 12.
The B–17 and P–63 were owned by the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum. The P–63F was the only flying aircraft of that model in the world, according to Warbird Digest.
The B–17, first called Model 299 by Boeing, took its maiden flight on July 28, 1935. A reporter dubbed it the “Flying Fortress,” and the U.S. Army Air Corps named it the B–17, according to Boeing. The four-engine bomber could accommodate two pilots, a bombardier, a navigator, a radio operator, and gunners. The B–17 entered World War II in 1941.
The P–63, a 408-mph fighter that could be fitted with a 37 mm cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns, was widely used by the Soviet Union during World War II.
The CAF was “founded to find and preserve World War II-era combat aircraft for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
AOPA will continue to provide updates as more information is made available.
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