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6 dead in Dallas air show disaster, authorities say

Nov. 13, 2022 Updated Sun., Nov. 13, 2022 at 8:15 p.m.

Damage from a mid-air collision between two planes sits within the fence line of the Dallas Executive Airport on Saturday, Nov.12, 2022, in Dallas. (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)  (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
Damage from a mid-air collision between two planes sits within the fence line of the Dallas Executive Airport on Saturday, Nov.12, 2022, in Dallas. (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/TNS) (Liesbeth Powers/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
By Michael Williams, Jamie Landers and Lana Ferguson Dallas Morning News

DALLAS – The midair collision between two historic aircraft at a Dallas air show on Saturday killed six people, including two deeply loved Keller-area men who had been pilots for decades, according to officials and friends of the victims.

While authorities have not publicly identified any of those killed, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed the death toll from the crash was six in a tweet early Sunday. The collision involved two World War II-era planes: a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra.

Allied Pilots, a union representing American Airlines pilots, identified two of the B-17 crew as former union members. The union identified them as Terry Barker, 67, and Len Root, 66.

Both Root and Barker were based around Keller, according to their friends and social media profiles.

Root had worked as a commercial pilot and manager for Commemorative Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing since October 2021, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Before that, he was a flight management system program controller and flight director for American Airlines for more than 35 years. He also studied aviation law and business at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Barker was a former Keller city councilman who was also an Army veteran, husband and father, the city’s mayor, Armin Mizani, posted on Facebook.

“Terry Barker was beloved by many,” Mizani wrote. “He was a friend and someone whose guidance I often sought. Even after retiring from serving on the City Council and flying for American Airlines, his love for community was unmistakable.”

Mizani said a Veterans Day display of 1,776 American flags in front of Keller Town Hall will remain an additional week in Barker’s honor.

John Baker, a former American Airlines colleague of Barker’s, said the two met several years ago while both were based out of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Both were tech airmen instructor pilots conducting training until Barker retired about two years ago after 36 years with the airline.

He told The Dallas Morning News Barker was a family man with a servant’s heart.

“He was really an enthusiast of aviation,” Baker said, adding that Barker had a hangar at the Northwest Regional Airport in Denton County where he spent a lot of time refurbishing a Beechcraft AT-6.

After his retirement, Barker got involved with the commemorative air force and flying the B-17, Baker said.

“He had great people skills and communication skills,” Baker said. “He also had a great sense of humor and was very professional.”

The Wings Over Dallas air show was scheduled to run from Friday to Sunday at Dallas Executive Airport. It was canceled after Saturday’s collision.

The event described itself as North Texas’ largest World War II air show. Thousands were watching from the airfield and nearby businesses Saturday, including World War II and American military history buffs who were drawn to the show because only a small amount of aircraft from the war remain airborne today.

The flight demonstration portion of the show began about 11 a.m. local time Saturday, according to a schedule posted on the air show’s website. One listed event was described as a parade of several types of bombers, including the B-17.

The next item listed on the schedule was a fighter escort involving a P-63. It’s unclear from the schedule whether both events were to take place at the same time.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a workhorse bomber that saw combat in both theaters of the Second World War. More than 12,000 B-17s were produced in various models, according to Boeing. Most were scrapped after the war ended in 1945. Very few remain today.

P-63s were developed during World War II, but never saw combat, according to the National Museum of the United States Air Force. More than 3,300 were produced. The aircraft was sometimes used for training, and several thousand were exported to the Soviet Union as part of a lend-lease agreement.

Video posted on social media shows the P-63 banking, and colliding directly with the B-17, which was flying straight. The impact immediately disintegrated the P-63 and split the B-17 in half, with the front half of the fuselage exploding in flames as it hit the ground.

Nobody on the ground was injured or killed, authorities said.

On Sunday morning, officials from several local and federal agencies, including Dallas Fire-Rescue, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were surveying the crash scene.

Airplane crash investigations are notoriously lengthy and complicated. According to the NTSB website, crash investigations can take five years or more to complete. The average time is about two to three years. It’s unclear if the fact that Saturday’s crash was widely filmed will accelerate the timeline of the investigation.

Preliminary reports should be submitted within five days, according to the NTSB website.

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