Best Of The Web: CAF Dallas Crash Early Analysis


AOPA Aviation Safety Foundation VP Richard McSpadden prepared this early analysis video of last week’s CAF fatal B-17/P-63 midair in Dallas. His explanation of how parallel show lines are used to separate mixed types illuminates how such an accident could occur.

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  1. I learned that the pilot of the P-63 wasn’t formerly a military fighter pilot. That seems to me to be relevant when doing the type of flying he was doing in this airshow. His present profession of airline pilot seems irrelevant to fighter airplane flying in an airshow.

  2. Mr. McSpadden’s thoughtful and sober analysis of accidents is very appreciated in an Internet era where it seems too many jump to quick answers. Aside from the tragedy of the accident, his explanation of airshow flight operations was helpful and great background.

  3. Good discussion. EVERYONE misses this one thing. The FAA dictates a show line, but they apparently don’t dictate a turn point for each showline. All the planes in a parade should be wings-level by the time they line up with their show line. Had the P63 been wings level earlier, he’d have seen he wasn’t lined up with his show line, and he also would have seen ahead of him. So the faster planes should extend out farther before they initiate their crosswind AND their base turns. The slower planes should always turn closer in. Looking at the map AOPA provided, it doesn’t appear there is a clear set of show lines at all. The tracks are all over the place. Have a sound plan (apparently they didn’t), and follow it.

    • There is no “turn point”. The show line is not the line every airplane is on, it is a designated line you fly reference to, very few planes are on it. As one that has actually flown in this parade I can assure you that there is a sound plan. But plans cannot always be followed to the T, especially not in this show. Airplanes do not run on rails and do not have adaptive cruise control, they will go out of position during the show. This is where the air boss comes in and makes adjustments to the patterns and that’s why you see tracks all over the place. This is a well briefed event involving human brains, not computers.

    • If they aren’t operating contrary to 14 CFR, FAA involvement isn’t necessary, nor is an air boss. Most of the FAA requirements are orientated towards operating contrary to specific regulations, with a waiver. Crowd line and protecting the crowd is a primary concern. Its mostly orientated towards aerobatics and aircraft doing fly-by close to the crowd or even overhead (military) and/or faster than 250. There isn’t much emphasis on aircraft flying overhead like this.

  4. The best analysis I have seen so far is Juan Browne’s on his Blancolirio YouTube channel. While the direct cause of the accident may come down to the P-63 pilot’s loss of situational awareness, there appears to be contributing factors could have easily eliminated two aircraft trying to occupy that same point in space at the same time. Mr. Browne’s discussion of Reno air racing maneuver rules and fighter aircraft joins in turns was helpful in understanding the physics of the aircraft turning maneuver. It will be interesting to read about the logic behind the airshow plan that had aircraft with 50 to 100 knot speed differences flying at the same altitude and turning inside each other. Sadly, the price is six fine people who are no longer with us.

  5. I can’t make a judgement until I hear the radio calls… no way did Craig make that move in the P63 without being instructed to make it, and the poor guys in the B17 never saw it coming.

    • I wasn’t there but if the P63 pilot was instructed to do something unsafe he should have ignored the order.I am curious why there wasn’t any altitude separation between the slower bombers and faster fighters on the parade route.