The tragic accident that took the lives of so many skilled pilots and crew members at the airshow in Dallas was totally preventable and the video is disturbing because of the clarity it brings to the cause.

YOU NEVER GO BELLY UP TO THE LEADER  As a former airshow pilot myself that admonition was drilled into my head by some of the best airshow and military trained pilots led by John Ellis who strictly enforced that and other airshow rules so there were no accidents. The CAT Flight which flew formation with multiple aircraft types of which I was a member as CAT 5 never had an accident even though 6 different aircraft joined up several times during the shows.

The formation training of the P-63 fighter pilot is unknown to me at this hour but the video clearly shows that his aircraft was belly up to the B-17 with which it appears he was attempting to join.

The reason for the rule is you lose sight of your leader and thus cannot judge distance, location speed or anything else. The risk of collision is very high when you cannot see whom you are supposed to be in formation with and that kind of join up is not permitted.

I am not blaming anyone and to the greatest extent possible airshows, the pilots and the aircraft that fly in them are safe. Airshows are one of the largest spectator events in America and it is rare that a tragedy like this occurs.

What can we learn? Training, training, training, discipline, discipline and more training.

Formation flying is not easy but to do it safely you must do it frequently or practice extensively before doing it in an airshow setting. The other rule about airshow safety is to take your time, do nothing you haven’t practiced before and never violate the airshow briefing and do only what is briefed. That way expectations from all pilots are the same and no deviations are expected.

Be careful what these “putative” ex Government experts are saying because they have never flown airshows or a vintage military aircraft for that matter.

For the most part, the aircraft are well maintained, expertly flown and care is taken to make sure that our national heritage of military aviation is displayed safely.

May the memories of those lost be a blessing to their families.

Watch the video below.

Arthur Alan Wolk


November 13, 2022

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