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Fri, Mar 15, 2024

NTSB Releases Data Collection Regarding P-63/B-17 MidAir

Microsoft Flight Sim, Transcripts May Provide Biggest Breaks in the Case

The initial bolus of investigative material has been published in the ongoing search into the cause of the fatal collision between a P-63 and B-17 at the Wings Over Dallas Airshow.

It's a whole lot of data to sift through for anyone somewhat interested in the outcome of the investigation, with maintenance records, testimonies, reports, and manuals published on the extensive databank on the case. It's too early to begin making too many assertions, since none of the 49 documents really points to a definitive solution to the whodunnit.

Perhaps the most interesting selection out of the bunch is a performance study using the ADS-B data leading up to the incident. The document manages to assess the level of situational awareness experienced by each aircraft before the collision, collating their nav data and even including a transcription of the air boss frequency. That portion is particularly enlightening, given the second-to-second rundown of what the ground controllers were doing as they shuffled so many aircraft - each with different performance capabilities - in a delicate ballet of traffic patterns over the show. The maps included in the report show just how easy it was for a collision to finally occur, with almost a dozen different warbirds in the air.

Of extra interest was the NTSB's use of Microsoft Flight Simulator to gauge the cockpit visibility of the B-17 from the P-63's point of view as it ran up on it. It's a low-dollar simulation compared to what one would expect from government systems, but it does the job well: The B-17, in standard Army Air Corps colors, is hard to spot across the low-quality, low-resolution, stock terrain textures included with the program. Even so, the effect is clear: The KingCobra, sidling up on the nearly blind B-17, didn't have much of a chance to spot the bomber throughout its left turn. Even worse was the presence of fighters off to the front and left of the aircraft's track, giving it one likely target to fixate on.

It's a very interesting report, in any case, found under Document 41, Aircraft Performance Study. The investigation will continue, however, so there's more yet to come.

FMI: www.ntsb.govAircraft Performance Study

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