A retired American Airlines pilot who previously served on the Keller city council was among six people who died Saturday when two World War II-era planes collided in midair at the Wings Over Dallas Airshow at the Dallas Executive Airport.
In 2001, Terry Barker described to a reporter his 10-year pursuit to build an aerobatic biplane in his spare time.
“Somebody said it’s like a postman taking a walk on his day off,” he said. “But I’m very lucky because I get paid for doing what I enjoy. At work, everybody likes a nice, smooth ride. But I still like going upside down. It’s just a feeling I’ve never gotten over, that free and independent opportunity to go out and fly.”
Barker was 67. He decided in 2003 not to seek re-election after two terms in Place 5.
Keller Mayor Armin Mizani wrote in a Facebook post of turning to Barker for counsel.
“Terry Barker was beloved by many. He was a friend and someone whose guidance I often sought. Even after retiring from serving on the City Council and flying for American Airlines, his love for community was unmistakable,” Mizani wrote.
The planes involved were a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Bell P-63 Kingcobra, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA said the two planes collided and crashed to the ground about 1:15 p.m.
Both planes were owned and operated by the Commemorative Air Force, which hosted the Veterans Day weekend air show. Officials said the B-17 had a crew of five people, while the Kingcobra was flown by a single pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation into the cause of the crash.
The Allied Pilots Association said in a tweet Saturday night that two of its former members were killed on board the B-17. The pilots association, which is the union that represents American Airlines pilots, identified the crew members as Barker and Len Root, who retired in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends, and colleagues past and present,” the tweet read.
According to a LinkedIn profile, Root, 66, lived in the Keller area and had worked as a pilot and manager for the Gulf Coast Wing of the Commemorative Air Force since October 2021. He previously worked for American Airlines for 35 years as a flight director and flight management system program controller.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins confirmed the deaths in a tweet Sunday morning.
“According to our Dallas County Medical Examiner, there are a total of 6 fatalities from yesterday’s Wings over Dallas air show incident,” Jenkins tweeted. “Authorities will continue working today on the investigation & identification of the deceased. Please pray for their families and all involved.”
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said there were no reports of injuries to spectators or other people on the ground. The debris field from the crash extended from the airport grounds to Highway 67 and a nearby strip mall, Johnson wrote in a tweet.
The Dallas Executive Airport is in the 5300 block of Challenger Drive near U.S. Highway 67 in Redbird, about 10 miles southwest of downtown Dallas.
Videos taken by witnesses and posted to social media appear to show the smaller fighter plane hit the back of the B-17 bomber as the P-63 made a turn. The planes broke apart as they fell to the ground, followed by a fiery explosion and clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky.
Commemorative Air Force spokesperson Leah Block said both of the vintage military planes came from Houston. A Facebook page about the plane identified the B-17 as the one named Texas Raiders, which the Commemorative Air Force website calls “one of the most recognized and popular warbirds.” Out of the 12,731 B-17s built by the U.S., it was one of only five that were still flying, according to the website.
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