Dallas Midair Prelim Cites Lack Of Altitude Deconfliction


The NTSB has cited the absence of altitude deconfliction guidance in the collision of a P-63F and a B-17 at the Wings Over Dallas Airshow on Nov. 12. Six people were killed in the tragedy at Dallas Executive Airport. In its preliminary report, the NTSB said there were a total of eight vintage aircraft involved in the display being executed, a flight of three fighters and a flight of five bombers. “There were no altitude deconflictions briefed before the flight or while the airplanes were in the air,” the prelim says. “When the fighter formation approached the flying display area, the P-63F was in a left bank and it collided with the left side of the B-17G just aft of the wing section.”

Investigators also used audio and ADS-B data to describe how the aircraft were arrayed. “The P-63F was number 3 of a three-ship formation of historic fighter planes and the B-17G was lead of a five-ship formation of historic bomber airplanes,” the report says. “The air boss directed both formations to maneuver southwest of the runway before returning to the flying display area, which was the designated performance area. He directed the fighter formation to transition to the trail formation and proceed near the 500 foot show line. The bombers were directed to fly down the 1,000 foot show line.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. They were counting on lateral deconfliction for a flight path that reversed directions using 90-270 turns at each end, comprised of aircraft with widely disparate performance and visibility characteristics.

    Not enough.

  2. Sounds like first the fighter / bomber flight sequencing process got a little bunched up, then…a flight track crossover at the same altitude. Ouch.

  3. 500 feet of lateral separation and no vertical separation seems woefully inadequate to me for dissimilar aircraft formations maneuvering at low altitude. I’d like to ask any performers and/or Air Bosses out there if this is a common/accepted practice.

  4. For the sake of clarification – Do the 1000 foot show line and 500 foot show line refer to distance from the edge of the crowd line? If the video of the collision was from the crowd, then it appeared the P-63 pilot was outside the 1000 foot line and would have had to cross it to get into position on the 500 foot line. Correct?

    • AOPA did an analysis that showed the P-63 did indeed get outside of the 1000 foot line and crossed into the 500 foot line that the bomber was flying in. It sounded like the P-63 pilot may have been focused on his formation positioning to the other fighters and possibly wasn’t even looking for other traffic.

      • The report actually says that the fighters were directed to the 500′ line, and the bombers to the 1000′ line. That would mean that the fighters would have to cross over the bombers’ line, if I’m reading it right.