Commemorative Air Force to host annual Veterans Day event without air show this year

A Val replica aircraft releases a smoke trail as it flies overhead Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, for the November open house event at the Rio Grande Valley Wing of the Commemorative Air Force at the Port Isabel – Cameron County Airport in Los Fresnos. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
Only have a minute? Listen instead
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Lana Ferguson | The Dallas Morning News

A year after the mid-air collision between two World War II-era aircraft killed six crewmen in front of a large crowd, the Commemorative Air Force will host its annual Veterans Day Weekend event in Dallas without the air show.

This year’s event is called the Aviation Discovery Festival and will still offer attendees the opportunity to pay to fly in historic aircraft, according to the CAF website.

The event is scheduled for Nov. 10-12 at the Dallas Executive Airport, the same location as last year’s deadly Wings Over Dallas Airshow.

A midair collision between a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra occurred during the air show performance of the Wings Over Dallas event the afternoon of Nov. 12, 2022.

Six experienced airmen died in the crash. They were identified as Lloyd “Len” Root, Terry Barker, Curtis Rowe, Craig Hutain, Dan Ragan, and Kevin Michels. No one on the ground was injured or killed.

Wings Over Dallas turned Aviation Discovery Festival

This year’s event is “more of a festival atmosphere with lots of things to see and do,” CAF’s vice president of marketing Leah Block said in an email to The Dallas Morning News.

“We decided at the beginning of the year that we were not going to hold a traditional airshow this year, with coordinated performances like we’ve done in the past at Wings Over Dallas WWII Airshow,” Block said. “We didn’t want to let down our supporters and patrons who have come to enjoy it for several years.”

CAF plans to bring the airshow back as part of the annual event next year but for 2023 the group is hosting a “unique aviation history-themed experience” that will honor local veterans and bring families together, according to Block.

Although there is no air show performance, attendees can still pay to take a flight on the historic aircrafts, according to the event’s website.

The festival — which already has more than 1,000 students registered to attend — will include tours of historic aircraft, a living history encampment, an aviation activity center, and veterans who will speak as part of the Veterans Voices program and be around to meet and greet with attendees.

Some hands-on experiences include cockpit tours and flight simulators.

A more detailed schedule of events and tickets can be found on the festival’s website.

A sign outside of the entrance to the Dallas Executive Airport along Hampton Road flashes with a message that the airshow is cancelled on Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. A crash between a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra took place at the airport a day earlier. (Liesbeth Powers | TNS)

The aftermath of the 2022 collision

The National Transportation Safety Board released a four-page preliminary investigative report weeks after the collision that did not determine a cause for the crash, but it provided details about the minutes leading up to the accident and the maneuvers pilots were performing.

A full report from the NTSB usually takes 12 to 18 months, so could be as published as soon as Sunday or as late as spring.

The News obtained a 36-minute air traffic control recording from the FAA in January. The recording contained conversations between multiple pilots and the show’s air boss, who is responsible for airshow operations on the taxiways, runways and demonstration area.

In the months since, no other official documents or reports have been released. The wife and daughters of Len Root, one of the pilots who died in the collision, filed a lawsuit in Dallas County in August. The defendants include CAF, the American Airpower Heritage Flying Museum Inc. and the American Airpower Heritage Museum Inc. The latter two entities own and maintain the aircraft involved in the incident, according to the lawsuit.

Root’s family is seeking at least $1 million in damages and legal action “to help ensure safety for pilots participating in air shows and to show that the tragic death of a beloved husband and father is an immense loss made even more traumatic by its preventable nature,” a statement obtained by The News from the law firm representing the family said at the time.

The lawsuit is pending.

©2023 The Dallas Morning News. Visit Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.