Two WW2-era Aircraft Crashed During Dallas Air Show

14 Nov 2022

The 3-day Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas WWII Airshow took place at the Dallas Executive Airport in Texas, United States starting on 11 Nov 2022. At 1320 hours during the afternoon of the second day of the event, 12 Nov, a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber and a P-63 Kingcobra fighter, both of WW2-vintage, collided in mid-air and crashed, killing all six aboard the two aircraft. Experts from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived on 13 Nov to begin their investigation. A preliminary report can be expected in four to six weeks, but the final report will not be furnished for 12 to 18 months.

The B-17 aircraft that had crashed was one of about 45 complete surviving examples of the model; after this crash, only eight are airworthy. The P-63 aircraft was one of only 14; after this crash, only three are airworthy. Historian Jonathan Parshall, a friend of WW2DB, argued for the grounding of all WW2-era aircraft:

Classic WWII warbirds should not be flown. Period. I'm just going to throw that out there, and accept that it will be wildly unpopular with the warbird community. But continuing to fly these things is lunacy. We've lost three flyable B-17s destroyed since 2011, with thirteen fatalities. This has reduced the number of flyable B-17s on the planet by 25%. If we keep flying them, it is absolutely inevitable that we will lose every single one of them. It's guaranteed, unavoidable, and as certain as gravity. The only question is how long it'll take, and how many people will die in the process.

These are 80 year-old military airframes that were not designed or built with safety in mind. No matter how lovingly they are maintained, they are still full of complex, finicky machinery that wasn't necessarily all that reliable on the day they were built, let alone now. And funniest thing, they are not always as well-maintained as we might like to think. Nor are they required by the NTSB to conform to modern commercial standards for passenger-carrying aircraft (because maintenance and safety requires, you know, a lot of money, which in many cases the individual owners or struggling non-profits that own these birds simply don't have enough of.) And lastly, human pilots make mistakes, and will continue doing so. Put all three together, and you've got an unsolvable problem. They are going to continue crashing.

These aircraft are literally irreplaceable. It's like flying around a Monet or a Rembrandt and then wondering, "Gee, why do we see fewer and fewer of them in the Louvre?" The longer we hold off grounding them, the fewer of them (and their crew and passengers) there will be. But we simply need to face up to the facts and stop flying them.

As Parshall noted, though logical, his comment was controversial. Some likened the grounding of historical aircraft due to possible dangers to the closing of a national park due to the possibility of hikers dying from weather or falls. Meanwhile, others cite the excitement that such air shows generate, which often directly translate into support, financial or otherwise, for museums and other preservation efforts.

For more information:
CNN: 6 dead after a pair of vintage military aircraft collided at a Texas air show
Commemorative Air Force
Wings Over Dallas
WW2DB: B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber
WW2DB: P-63 Kingcobra Fighter

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