'Pulverized everybody and everything': 6 die in midair collision of WWII planes at Dallas air show

The explosive crash of two vintage World War II planes over a Dallas air show left six people dead and a debris field stretched across an airport, nearby highway and strip mall, authorities said Sunday.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said the National Transportation Safety Board was leading the investigation into the cause of the "horrible tragedy" Saturday at the Wings over Dallas air show.

One of the key questions investigators are looking into is why were the two planes sharing the same space before impact.

“One of the things we would probably most likely be trying to determine is why those aircraft were co-altitude in the same air space at the same time,” Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said at a news conference.

The Federal Aviation Administration also was going to investigate, officials said. A preliminary report from the NTSB is expected in four to six weeks, while a final report will take up to 18 months to complete.

The planes, a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and P-63 Kingcobra fighter plane, collided at around 1:20 p.m. above Dallas Executive Airport, less than 10 miles from downtown. The show had drawn more than 4,000 spectators. Mayor Eric Johnson said said no injuries to people on the ground were reported.

"We have had a terrible tragedy in our city," Johnson said. "The videos are heartbreaking. Please, say a prayer for the souls who took to the sky to entertain and educate our families."

'SHOCK AND DISBELIEF': World War II bomber, smaller plane collide and crash at Dallas air show

The Allied Pilots Association, collective bargaining agent for all American Airlines pilots, said two former members, Terry Barker and Len Root, were among the dead.

"Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and colleagues past and present," the association said in a Twitter post, adding that counseling was being made available at its Fort Worth headquarters.

Video from the scene appears to show the P-63 turning into the path of the B-17. Both planes break apart and the P-63 then flies straight into the ground and explodes. Raging flames quickly give way to thick, black smoke.

The B-17 typically has a crew of four to five people and a P-63 usually has a single pilot. The aircraft are flown by highly trained volunteers who are often retired professional pilots, said Hank Coates, president of planes owner Commemorative Air Force. No paying customers were on the planes, he said.

Debris from two planes that crashed during an airshow at Dallas Executive Airport lie on the ground Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.
Debris from two planes that crashed during an airshow at Dallas Executive Airport lie on the ground Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.

Fort Worth pilot Victoria Yeager, widow of legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager, was at the event but said on Twitter that she did not see the actual crash.

"I saw the fire just after B-17 crashed into ground. Pulverized everybody & everything. So sad," she said. "P-63 did a belly up in forming up. Very unfortunate – B-17 probably never knew what hit him. Formation flying takes a lot of practice – special skill set."

The B-17, a main component of U.S. air superiority in World War II, is a four-engine bomber used in daylight raids against Germany. Most were scrapped after the war. In 2019, after a bomber crash in Connecticut killed seven people, the NTSB said it had investigated 21 crashes since 1982 involving World War II-era bombers that resulted in 23 deaths.

The Kingcobra was a U.S. plane used mostly by Soviet forces during the war.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dallas air show crash: 6 die as FAA and NTSB investigate collision