two WWII planes collide in mid-air

The accident claimed the lives of six people.

In France it is celebrated on November 11 because it corresponds to the date of the armistice of the First World War. In the United States, this date corresponds to Veteran’s Day, a celebration of American veterans. To mark the occasion, the US military organizes an annual air festival, where heaps of history-steeped planes fly before the eyes of enthusiasts. But according to the New York Timesthe 2022 edition turned into a nightmare when two planes collided mid-flight.

The incident occurred at a Dallas airport. The public had come in large numbers to watch iconic devices fly simultaneously in the Texas sky. Each in turn, the devices descended to a low altitude for the audience to observe them in more detail as an announcer presented it through some historical anecdotes.

A mid-air collision between a fighter and a bomber

The first part of the show went smoothly. But around 1:20pm local time, everything changed. Due to a coordination problem, two WWII aircraft approached the ground at the same time. And what was supposed to happen happened: a Bell P-63 Kingcobra, a small fighter, head-on hit the port side of a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a famous heavy bomber with a wingspan of over 30 meters.

The speed of the collision and the low altitude unfortunately did not leave the slightest chance to the two crews. The bomber’s tail was immediately severed, while the fighter flew to pieces. Within seconds the two planes crashed with a spectacular and sinister explosion. No members of the public were injured; but unfortunately the six people who were on board the two cars lost their lives.

Whose fault is it ?

At present, it is still very difficult to know how such a tragedy could have happened; after all, the B-17 is a massive machine that an experienced pilot should have no problem avoiding, even in an emergency. And so it was for all the riders present in Dallas. It therefore seems rather unlikely that the Kingcobra pilot misjudged his approach speed. Could a violent gust have caused it to deviate from his path? Is it the result of a technical problem? Or did he still make a mistake?

For the moment, the mystery remains intact; as these are older aircraft, they were not equipped with a cabin recorder like modern aircraft. The National Transportation Safety Board, the federal agency that handles all things transportation, has now taken over. He will conduct a lengthy investigation to determine the causes of the tragedy. According to the New York Times, it will deliver a preliminary report in four to six weeks, then a full report in about 18 months.

The Times also recalls that another B-17 had already crashed in 2019, in Connecticut, with a death toll of 7. At the time, the crash was attributed to pilot error and “inadequate maintenance”. All that remains is to wait for the reports of the NTSB to have the first elements of the answer.