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NTSB releases preliminary report on deadly Dallas air show plane crash that killed 6

NTSB says altitude maneuvers weren’t discussed before the flight or while the airplanes were in the air.

DALLAS — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Wednesday released its preliminary report on the deadly plane air show plane crash in Dallas earlier this month.

Just after 1:20 p.m. on Nov. 12, five people on board a B-17 Flying Fortress were killed along with the pilot of a P-63 King Cobra during the Wings Over Dallas air show that featured several World War II-era planes.

A full investigation could take up to 12-18 months, according to the NTSB, and the report released Wednesday were the initial findings by investigators.

According to recorded audio for the airshow radio transmissions and Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data, the air boss, who was directing the show, directed the Bell P-63F King Cobra, which was in a three-ship formation of historic fighter airplanes, and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, which was in a five-ship formation of historic bomber airplanes, to maneuver southwest of the runway before returning to the flying display area.


The NTSB report says the air boss told the fighter formation to transition to a trail formation, fly in front of the bomber formation and head toward the 500-foot show line. The bombers were told to fly down the 1,000-foot show line.

The NTSB report says the 500-foot show line and the 1,000-foot show line were 500 feet and 1,000 feet from the airshow viewing line, behind where the audience viewed the show.

NTSB says altitude maneuvers weren’t discussed before the flight or while the airplanes were in the air. According to the data, when the fighter formation approached the designated performance area, the P-63 King Cobra was in a left bank and collided with the left side of the B-17 Flying Fortress, just behind of the wing section. 

Both airplanes broke up in flight and hit the ground in a grassy area at the Dallas Executive Airport. The NTSB says a fire ignited in the wing center section of the B-17 as it descended and exploded upon ground impact.

Wreckage of the crash was scattered over Highway 67 and over the airfield at Dallas Executive Airport.

The pilot, co-pilot and three crewmembers onboard the B-17 and the pilot of the P-63F were killed. The victims were identified as Terry Barker, Maj. Curtis Rowe, Craig Hutain, Len Root, Dan Ragan and Kevin “K5” Michels.

WFAA spoke with Jon Kettles, an aviation attorney, who said it appears the bomber was either ahead of its planned path or the P-63 was slow and behind and when the P-63 turned to get into position, it crashed into the bomber which was flying at a similar altitude. 

“There was obviously a breakdown in the procedure as well as the execution," said Kettles. 

“We work in a three dimensional world. They should’ve had both horizontal separation. In this case they were using distance from the audience, as well as vertical separation and that didn’t happen," he continued.  

The Commemorative Air Force, which owned and put on the air show, released the following statement Wednesday: 

"We are continuing to work with NTSB and are grateful for their diligence in looking into anything that could have been a factor to cause the accident. Until the NTSB’s final report comes out, we cannot speculate about any cause or causes that may have led to the accident. We will continue to post any updates on our website." 



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