by Richard Mallory Allnutt (Editor)
Words are usually my strongest ally, but I am unsure where or even how to begin… I have written and re-written these opening lines a dozen times or more. We rarely cover accidents here, but this weekend’s collision was too profound to bypass. Six precious lives lost in one brief coming together in the skies over Dallas…
While some may callously choose to focus on the destruction of two historic aircraft, we must remember that airframes are replaceable – it is the human element of this tragedy which far outstrips any other concern. Last night, the Commemorative Air Force released the names of those we lost (see above). The air show community is a small and close knit group. Indeed all of us here knew or knew of most of those involved in Saturday’s calamity, and several of them have contributed to stories we published over the past decade. The heartache we feel for their loved ones and close friends, not to mention their greater family within the CAF, is almost impossible to fully express, but the image below perhaps best encapsulates the poignancy of our mood…
For those wishing to help the families of those who perished, the CAF published the following…
“The International Council of Air Shows (ICAS) Foundation, in association with the CAF, is accepting donations for the families of those involved in the accident. To donate, please go to https://airshowfoundation.org/
We hope that many of our readers will do their best to help where they can.
Vintage Aviation News will stand down for the next few days to grieve and regroup. Please take care everyone…
Addendum: We have received permission to repost personal reflections about some of the aircrew involved in the tragedy by those who knew them well. We will add to this list, but encourage any readers who also have personal connections to add their own comments below.
- Larry Combs
“As Crew Chief of CAF Airbase Georgia’s P-51 Mustang (Red Nose), I flew with Craig to many air show events. The smiles on our faces were not staged but living our dream.
He would say something like “how lucky are we that we get to fly a 1945 vintage Warbird”. He was a ton of fun to be around. He never met a stranger and treated everyone like they were his next best friend.
He loved his beautiful wife Lori and always made her his priority to call when we landed at our destination. The aviation community has lost one of its finest.
God be with you my friend and know that we are praying for Lori and your family during this time of sorrow.”
- Cheri Smith Prochaska
“Kevin Michels was larger than life.
He lived and loved BIG.
One of the first of Darrell’s longtime friends that I met when we were dating, Kevin remained a constant throughout our lives no matter where we or he lived. We met up in all the places… Newport Beach, Boise, Austin, Nashville, College Station.
RVing through Denver this Summer we missed a meet up though and that is extra hard now, knowing that we could have had one last hug and heard that laugh one more time.
Kevin lived an epic life and died doing what he loved – flying in the CAF Gulf Coast Wing’s B-17 Texas Raiders Warbird at the Wings Over Dallas Airshow (Official).
I’m equal parts gutted to lose such a bright light and inspired to live life as full and bright as he did!”
- Kara Lynn
“Curt was my favorite Flight Engineer, we flew On the B-17 together for 12 years. He lived in Ohio so I always looked forward to flying with him in the Fall.
I flew Sat morning with him in Tora & he was so happy. He loved Texas Raiders more than anyone. He was an amazing FE. May sound silly but I’ll miss giving him a hard time about how he loved bland food.
He was a picky eater! Lol. I loved that man like family.
I know he’s in heaven watching over us. Godspeed Curt I will miss you always”
“While some may callously choose to focus on the destruction of two historic aircraft, we must remember that airframes are replaceable ”
I dont think anyone is callously focusing on the destruction of the aircraft. for the vast majority we barely knew who the crews were for those planes. the airframes are not replaceable unless you are referring to static displays which are not the same as seeing them actually fly
Sadly there is traction on this via Internet Groups and Chat Rooms. There some quite vile comments on big social media platforms and the groups within. So, in effect Ricard is correct
I have silently left two groups, on Aviation and one Modelling, not including biting my tongue on two very popular streaming sites
I’ve heard the same thing from family members that are in those internet groups. The good news is that one or more of those groups have decided not to accept new members during this time. I hope that others are taking action against the vile people in their groups.
As for me, I appreciate the accurate perspective given in this article that a human life is more valuable than stuff… no matter what the stuff is. That doesn’t suggest that the aircraft are not greatly loved and historically important, but people should be far more valued then even them.
Not true. I can tell you of a couple airframes for B-17’s that are under restoration right now that will fly again. Not static, but airworthy and flying status. One is Liberty Belle, destroyed in a fire and the other is Desert Rat. There are others being built also. As for knowing or not knowing the crews, we knew their spirit, and shared in their love of aircraft. I would say, we knew them well. I have shared my love by joining Yankee Air Museum and the Collings Foundation. I have flown several times with Collings and a few with Yankee. Both honors for me and great crews. My prayers are with the CAF and the families and friends of those who passed. Also, for those on the ground that witnessed this horrific event.
Very true. I agree with you 100%.
I was quite saddened by the news of this accident over the weekend. Hopefully (though I doubt it) the airframes will be restored, but sadly the lives cannot be restored. but thankfully they died doing what they loved, and they didn’t suffer.
Lets just put this into perspective. Six good people lost their lives. The circumstances of that loss shall be determined in the fullness of time. Neither the people nor the aircraft are replaceable. We love to see them fly but people are needed for that. Hopefully there shall not be any knee jerk reactions and in time wounds shall heal and we can think of those lost the next time we see a B.17 in the air
I’m an enthusiast from the UK who, along with many others both here and in Europe, share the shock and heartbreak felt by our friends in the American Warbird community and beyond. ‘Let us go forward together’.
The loss of any life is always devastating and our thoughts are with these aviators families and friends, and the CAF. Accidents happen and this was simply a tragic accident. No one is pointing blame at aircraft or aircrew. There are simply no guarantees in life, but if we can take any consolation from this event it is that they passed doing something they loved passionately. Blue skies.
Certainly the human cost is immeasurable and a tragedy beyond words, but to label those of us that also mourn the loss of historic aircraft as “callous” or ignoring the true impact on family and friends of the crew is a mischaracterization and poor choice of words indeed. Taxes Raiders was one of the most pristine of B-17 restorations, and her mission of flying to educate will be sorely missed as will be those courageous and dedicated souls that crewed her. I am not ashamed of mourning the loss of rare and important aircraft. Rhetorically I would ask the author, if these priceless lost aircraft can be “replaced”….how and from where?
Dear David… Perhaps you misread my statement. The term “callous” was exclusively (and clearly) directed at those who choose to “focus” on the historic aircraft destroyed rather than the human toll of this accident. Sadly, I have seen an abundance of that kind of chatter. Of course we too mourn the loss of those beautiful aircraft – just as you do – how could we not given how much energy we have put into this publication over the past decade, not to mention the numerous other contributions to vintage aviation we make outside of that realm… but the loss of those aircraft is nothing in comparison to the huge hole those six lives will leave in so many hearts, including our own.
And yes, while the original airframes lost will likely never be resurrected due to the calamity associated with them, there are numerous examples where that is not the case. Think of all the virtually obliterated wrecks which have been rebuilt over the years. Indeed, it could be argued that many, maybe even most, of the WWII-era aircraft of any monetary value restored over the past two decades or so contain only a fraction of the material from their original manufacture. We have become extraordinarily good at building essentially brand new WWII aircraft. This is certainly true for most of the P-40s, P-51s, Spitfires, Mosquitos, Hurricanes, Bf 109s, Boomerangs and Zeros built since the early 2000s, and the same is becoming true for other types such as the P-47, Corsair, B-25 and even the B-17. All it takes is dollars, knowhow and determination for you to rebuild almost anything from virtually scratch these days. This does not take away from the authenticity of these newly-built aircraft though… They still have a powerful ability to evoke the essence of their origins and recall the human stories of their past… and that is why we all accept and love seeing them fly. I hope you can see what we mean by this… machines are replaceable, humans are not. Regardless, I do appreciate you expressing your opinion and sympathize with the honest intent of your comment. Thank you again for writing in. All the best, Richard Mallory Allnutt
My heart is heavy and i would like to send warm condolences to everyone involved. And to all Ohio Warbirds for the loss of those,like you, who strive to keep these amazing planes in flight and the continued reverance for our greatest generation. God bless
(Ken Eltzroths granddaughter) Ohio
Seeing the entire internet mourn the loss of a B-17 is a testament to the success of the mission of the CAF:
For years, the crew of Texas Raiders worked tirelessly to show the world the history and joys of vintage warbirds, and in these days of sorrow, the world has shown that they were paying attention.
Thanks for everything, guys. We’ll keep them flying.
It was simply a very tragic accident. God bless the deceased participants and their families.
When you get to see these magnificent old planes in person it’s like being in the presence of royalty. One can only imagine how wonderful it must be to fly or work around them. What a glorious privilege. Just feel sick when I think of this accident and the lives lost. The only comforting thought is all involved were doing what they loved. Heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of those lost. Rest in peace.
Godspeed to all these aviators ❤️ Prayers of peace for their families and friends
The events of November 12th will be engrained into the collective conscious the warbird community. While the loss of two rare warbirds is significant, the real loss was that of Terry, Craig, Kevin, Dan, Leonard, and Curt. We didn’t just lose pilots and aircrews. We lost husbands, fathers, uncles, and friends. I hope that their loved ones will find some peace knowing that their pain is shared across the entire warbird community all over the world. If you wish to support these families, please consider contributing to the Family Fund at the International Council of Air Shows Foundation website.
In one respect, it doesn’t matter if the general public knew of, or ever met any of the men flying in the B-17 and P-63 that day. In one respect, it doesn’t really matter if people know about the CAF or not.
What DOES MATTER, is these men were preserving a unique History of 1) This Country during a World War, 2) the types of planes that fought, and some destroyed, during a time in History were Authoritarianism challenged Democracy, and barely lost, and 3) there were MEN flying those planes, and like some of their Historical Brothers (and some Sisters) also gave their lives to protect and preserve that History to the best of their abilities!
I would also dare to suggest, they LOVED what they did, even knowing that flying in general, and aged Warbirds can, and sometimes do, fail to have an ‘equal number of landings as takeoffs.’ They accepted that Risk!
Honoring what they did, what they did it in, IS the Mission of the CAF and also Museums World-wide, and they do it well! It isn’t just the money spent on these Aircraft, it’s the PASSION of the people that keep them going! I APPLAUD the CAF for their efforts!!
Yes, these types of planes COULD be ‘replaced.’ It would take a TON of money and YEARS of effort, but it IS possible! While not well known, the Aviation Community has, on many occasions, rebuilt aircraft from literally nothing and had them flying again! It happens!
My deepest condolences to the Families and Friends of the Aviators!
Fair Winds, and Happy Landings!
I feel kinda ashamed. I was one of the many who mourned the loss of the aircraft, more than those who lost their lives.
I appreciated reading this article and the postings about the the truly good men who lost their live.
Thanks for putting ME in perspective.
And to the families and friends of the victims, My sincere Condolences.
I too, am deeply saddened at the loss of life. I, Sir, have been an Emergency Medical Technician for over 40 years. It is a devastating blow to the families, friends and the Community as a whole, but to smugly say ” the air frames can be replaced”, is erroneous at best . We cannot pull another P-63, P-38, B-17, or another WWII aircraft out of our collective butt! In case you have not noticed it, times are hard for even the rich, thanks in large part to this current administration. Also, most of the “money” is located in other countries. As you well know, it takes quite a few million to rebuild, maintain and fly these wonderful machines.
I was deeply saddened when Red Bull acquired N25Y. I had the opportunity to sit in this magnificent aircraft. To me, it was a chance of a lifetime. The Gardner’s were kind, gracious and bent over backwards to make a dream come true for some stranger. I used to be a proponent of keeping these aircraft flying. There have been many GA accidents this year. The one, this weekend, was in the next county over. The people were lucky to get out with only a bad case of hypothermia and some soiled underwear.The war bird community, along with the racing community, have lost way too many in the last few years!
I think it is time to start thinking about making these ‘masters of the sky”, static displays. As I said, we have suffered a terrible loss, and to have you print a knee jerk reaction, calling out a niche of the public,is wrong. Shame on you, Sir!
In the debate, should or should they not fly, one reality is those organizations fund the restoration and maintenance of those aircraft largely through revenue from airshows and living history experience rides. To stop flying them would be a serious threat to the long-term financial viability of those organizations and the airshows they support.