NEWS Airshow accidents, while scary, are uncommon, say industry execs


Officials on Monday identified six men who were killed Saturday when a World War II-era bomber and a fighter jet collided and crashed in a ball of fire at the Dallas Memorial Air Wings display. All six are experienced pilots with years of flight training, including current and retired airline pilots and retired military pilots.

NTSB member Michael Graham said the National Transportation Safety Board is leading an investigation into why the planes were flying at the same altitude and in the same airspace.

The Memorial Air Force who participated in the show identified the victims as: Terry Barker, Craig Hutan, Kevin “K5” Michels, Dan Lagan, Leonard “Lane” Root and Ke T Ro.

All are volunteers, but each has gone through a rigorous process of logging time and training to fly and has been carefully vetted, Memorial Air Force Chief Executive Hank Coats said at a weekend news conference.

Officials have not publicly identified which of them were flying the planes.

Hutain of Montgomery, Texas has been a commercial airline pilot since 1985. According to his LinkedIn page, he started flying at the age of 10 and has logged more than 34,500 hours.

Buck, a retired pilot who worked for American Airlines, lives in Keller, Texas. He is a veteran who flew helicopters during his military service.

Rowe, a member of the Ohio Wing Civilian Air Patrol, was the captain of the B-17, his brother-in-law Andy Keller told The Associated Press on Sunday. Rowe, of Hilliard, Ohio, goes to air shows a few times a year because he likes World War II aircraft, Keller said.

Root also comes from Keller, a pilot and manager of the Memorial Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing who served as a contract commercial pilot, according to his LinkedIn page.

Prior to the Dallas accident, there had been an average of 0.6 fatalities per year over the past five years. That figure includes pandemic years, when many airshows — including the 2020 one in Dayton — were canceled, skewing the average.

Airshows have averaged 1.4 accident fatalities per year over the past decade. Shows in the US and Canada have averaged two fatal accidents per year over the past 20 years. During the 35-year period from 1988 to 2022, there will be an average of 3.5 fatal accidents per year.

The average death toll has been steadily declining, Cudahy said.

“The industry takes the security of our business very seriously,” he said. Airshow planners, pilots and performers pored over each accident to glean any insight they could win, he said.

“When an incident occurs, the information gleaned from it is invaluable in helping us create procedures and processes that mitigate at least some of the risk,” Cudahy said. “This collective effort does exactly what you think it’s doing.”

Those reviews changed the safety policies of the FAA and other agencies.

“It’s hard to point out which accidents didn’t happen because safety measures are in place,” he said.

Importantly, no one was injured on the ground in Dallas, Cudahy noted.

After an accident at the 1951 Colorado Air Show that killed 20 people and injured about 50 others, the FAA required aircraft to be kept at least 500 feet away from the spectator area, and even farther for high-speed jets.

Among spectators, there hasn’t been an airshow fatality in more than 70 years.

“This is a safety record that we are proud of in the industry,” Cudahy said, adding: “That’s not to say there isn’t always room for further improvement. We are genuinely committed to achieving a safety record of zero incidents on a regular basis each year.”

A spokesman for the CenterPoint Energy Dayton Air Show declined to comment, saying it was investigating the incident in Dallas.

While the ages of Saturday’s victims were unclear, James E. Hall, who chaired the NTSB from 1994 to 2001, said the pilot’s age was an issue that must be examined.

The planes also need more scrutiny “because, like the crews in these cases, the planes are much older.”

Investigators are analyzing radar and video footage to determine the exact location of the collision, Graham said. He said the debris would be scrutinized, along with air traffic control tower recordings, pilot training records and aircraft maintenance records.

Neither plane was equipped with a flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder, separate devices collectively known as black boxes, and neither was required to have them, Graham said.

While rain hampered the collection of debris from the B-17 bomber, Graham said on Monday that the B-17’s electronic flight display and the fighter’s GPS navigation unit were both damaged and would be sent to an NTSB laboratory to see if the data was correct. can be restored.

He said the NTSB may also recommend that older aircraft be fitted with flight data recorders.

The crash came three years after a bomber crash in Connecticut that killed seven people amid concerns over the safety of air shows involving older warplanes. The company that owns the planes at the Dallas Air Show has had other crashes in its more than 60-year history.

The NTSB expects to submit an initial report within four to six weeks, while the final report will take up to 18 months to complete.

The cornerstone of U.S. air power during World War II, the B-17 was a massive four-engine bomber that carried out daylight raids on Germany. The King Cobra was an American fighter jet that was primarily used by the Soviet Army during the war. According to Boeing, most B-17s were scrapped at the end of World War II, and only a handful remain today, mostly in museums and air shows.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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