On Saturday, November 12, locals and visitors alike gathered for day two of the Air Force’s annual Wings Over Dallas event, North Texas’ largest WWII air show. As they looked to the sky to watch the afternoon’s excitement, however, they were instead horrified to see two aircraft, a B-17 Flying Fortress and a P-63 Kingcobra, colliding in mid-air while performing a flyover.
The planes crashed to the ground and exploded on impact, taking the lives of six members of the Commemorative Air Force, a Texas nonprofit “dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft.”
Immediately following the horrific incident, the identities of the crewmen remained undisclosed. Today, however, all six victims were named in a heart-wrenching tribute from the nonprofit.
“We are heartbroken to announce that the following members of the Commemorative Air Force went west on Saturday, November 12, 2022, at the Wings Over Dallas WWII Air Show while performing,” the CAF wrote in a statement. “Please join us in mourning the loss of our good friends and fellow airmen.”
The victims include Terry Barker, Craig Hutain, Kevin Michels, Dan Ragan, Leonard Root, and Curt Rowe. The Commemorative Air Force did not specify which crewmen were aboard the Kingcobra and which were on the Flying Fortress.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash, which currently remains unknown. A preliminary report from the organization is expected in four to six weeks. A final report, however, can take up to 18 months to complete.
Learn More About the Fallen Dallas Air Show Crewmen
The ages and backgrounds of the men who lost their lives at the Dallas air show varied greatly. Each, however, had at least one thing in common: they were all dedicated to their craft, with a love of spreading joy through their awe-inspiring performances.
Captain Terry Barker was a veteran pilot with 36 years of experience at the controls. He was a new grandfather who retired from American Airlines in 2020.
Craig Hutain, a born and raised Texan, was the pilot of the P-63 Kingcobra. In an interview alongside his warbird, Hutain gushed about his love for aviation. “From my behalf, it’s an honor and privilege to fly this airplane,” he said. “I’ve always been a pilot. I’ve been able to fly a J-3 with a pillow under my rear end and behind my back. It’s a lifelong obsession for me.”
Then there’s Kevin “K5” Michels and Dan Ragan. Michels was a proud historian and media representative for his flight crew, as well as a tour supervisor for veterans and the public. Ragan was a decorated veteran, having served in the Korean War.
Leonard “Len” Root was on the B-17 during the collision, as confirmed by the Allied Pilots Association. After a long and fruitful career as an American Airlines pilot, Root was looking forward to his continued retirement.
Finally, Major Curt Rowe, a devoted pilot Ohio, volunteered to be a crew member on the Flying Fortress. Through his illustrious career, Major Rowe earned every aircrew rating possible, including his Command Pilot rating. “There’s not very many like him around,” his cousin, Tom Rowe, told WCMH. “He loved his family. He had great pride in his country and in serving his country.”