All six people aboard a Bell P–63F Kingcobra and the Texas Raiders Boeing B–17G Flying Fortress died when the two aircraft collided midair November 12 during the 2022 Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Dallas WWII Airshow at Dallas Executive Airport in Texas, the NTSB confirmed.
The CAF on November 14 identified those killed in the midair: Craig Hutain, who was flying the P–63, and Terry Barker, Kevin “K5” Michels, Dan Ragan, Leonard “Len” Root, and Curtis Rowe in the B–17 operated by the CAF’s Gulf Coast Wing. There were no injuries on the ground, according to the NTSB.
The Houston-based warbirds collided at 1:22 p.m. Central time, a tragedy that canceled the remainder of the three-day airshow scheduled to go through November 13. Graphic videos released on social media showed the two aircraft colliding at high speed. (Warning: Viewer beware that the midair collision footage is graphic.)
NTSB Member Michael Graham told media that it was too early to determine whether pilot error or mechanical problems were involved and that a preliminary report would be released in four to six weeks, with a final report likely 12 to 18 months away.
The majority of the wreckage landed on airport property and what was outside the airport has been collected and turned over to the NTSB, Graham said. The NTSB is working with the FAA and CAF. Investigators are securing audio recordings from the tower; neither of the warbirds was equipped with flight data or cockpit voice recorders (they were not required to be). In addition, investigators have started interviewing formation crews and airshow operations staff, surveyed the accident site by drone, taken photographs by ground, and requested pilot training and aircraft maintenance records from the CAF. They are also analyzing radar and ground footage to determine the exact location of the midair.
Graham asked anyone who had photos or videos of the accident to send them to the NTSB via email.
Hutain, a United Airlines Boeing 777 pilot and Tora Tora Tora Airshows executive officer who was flying the Kingcobra, had about 34,500 hours and had flown many different warbirds, including the North American T–6 Texan and P–51 Mustang, Bell P–63 Kingcobra and P–39 Airacobra, and Curtiss P–40 Warhawk, according to the Tora website. In addition to the Boeing 777, he also flew the Boeing 737, McDonnell Douglas MD-80, Dassault Falcon 50 and 900, and de Havilland Twin Otter and Dash 7.
During an interview with Vintage Aviation News at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh in July, Hutain said he started flying with the CAF 14 years ago. He noted with a smile that he had just less than two years remaining to fly for the airlines before “flying warbirds full time.”
Hutain detailed the P–63F in the July interview, saying it was “one of one P-63Fs in the entire world, and one of two that was ever made.” The pilot sits in front of the engine in this tricycle-gear fighter.
“The CAF’s mission is to educate and inspire and certainly entertain,” he said. “This airplane does that. I like to think that I have a small part in that as well.”
Barker was a U.S. Army veteran; retired airline pilot; and former city councilman for Keller, Texas, and served as the maintenance officer for the Gulf Coast Wing. Keller Mayor Armin Mizani said on Facebook, “Terry Barker was beloved by many. 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.
“Yesterday he was flying to honor the greatest generation. Today, the Field of Honor in front of Keller Town Hall will remain standing an additional week in his honor.”
Michels, who was also a crewmember on Texas Raiders, served as the Gulf Coast Wing’s historian, and provided video tours of the warbird. Michels penned “The History of B-17G Texas Raiders,” writing that “As of 2021, there are just four B-17’s still actively flying in the world.”
In 2015, Michels likened piloting the Flying Fortress to “flying a [Mack] truck with no power steering.” He also said the bomber was designed to “take combat damage and still bring the crew home.”
Ragan served as the radioman on Texas Raiders “when it was … a PB-1W in the US Navy,” the CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders Facebook page explained. He rejoined the B–17’s crew in 2019 with the CAF.
Root was a retired airline pilot and training officer for the Gulf Coast Wing of the CAF. The wing’s Texas Raiders page said that Root earned his B–17 type rating in 1995 and was among the wing’s most senior B–17 pilots.
Rowe, a member of the Ohio Wing of the Civil Air Patrol, was also on board the B–17. According to 10WBNS, a Columbus, Ohio, area outlet, he was a mechanic on the Flying Fortress.
During a press conference just hours after the accident, CAF President and CEO Hank Coates said the organization “is an extremely close-knit family” and that “the pilots are very well trained.” This was the seventh year the CAF had hosted the airshow at its headquarters in Dallas. The three-day event was billed as “the Nation’s Premiere World War II Airshow.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those involved in the accident and their families,” the CAF said in a statement on its website November 12.
The B–17 and P–63 were owned by the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum. The P–63F was the only flying aircraft of that model in the world, according to Warbird Digest.
The B–17, first called Model 299 by Boeing, took its maiden flight on July 28, 1935. A reporter dubbed it the “Flying Fortress,” and the U.S. Army Air Corps named it the B–17, according to Boeing. The four-engine bomber could accommodate two pilots, a bombardier, a navigator, a radio operator, and gunners. The B–17 entered World War II in 1941.
The P–63, a 408-mph fighter that could be fitted with a 37 mm cannon and four .50-caliber machine guns, was widely used by the Soviet Union during World War II.
The CAF was “founded to find and preserve World War II-era combat aircraft for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations.”
AOPA will continue to provide updates as more information is made available.