An Air Force Academy cadet and his father died New Year’s Eve when their aircraft collided with another small aircraft 35 miles north of Dallas near the Aero County Airport.
Cadet 4th Class Timothy Barber was on Christmas break from the academy when the collision happened. His father, retired Lt. Col. Greg Barber, who served as an Air Force pilot, and Robert Navar of Frisco Texas (the pilot of the other aircraft) are the two others who lost their lives in the accident.
The Air Force Academy released a statement following news of the accident offering prayers for the family and support for cadets and staff.
“This is a tragedy for the Barbers and for those of us in their Air Force family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them as well as with their friends and loved ones,” said Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, academy superintendent, in a statement. “This is profoundly sad news for all of us at the Air Force Academy. We stand ready to support Cadet Barber’s family and also have resources at the ready to help cadets and staff to weather our loss.”
Eyewitnesses reported seeing one aircraft hit the rear of a aircraft. One plane lost its tail end and fell straight down onto the road while the other aircraft struggled to maintain control before crashing into a storage unit.
According to the Star-Telegram, a friend of the Barber family outlined the events leading up to the crash.
Keith Clifton, a longtime friend and business partner, told a local television station that the Barber’s had just taken off from Aero Country airport and were entering the first turn when their single-engine aircraft was struck in the tail.
“He was an excellent and very experienced pilot,” Clifton told WFAA. “Just wonderful people, the glue that holds communities together.”
Greg Feith, a former senior investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said pilots must take basic safety measures. One is to broadcast their position on a common radio frequency associated with the airport they’re headed toward, he said. For example, a pilot would say she is 10 miles northwest of the airport and headed inbound for landing.
“Every other pilot that’s listening on that frequency that’s operating either into or out of that airport will know where you are,” Feith said.
Lynn Lunsford, an FAA spokesman, said neither aircraft was in contact with air traffic control at the time, and both were flying under visual flight rules.
The midair crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The Barbers were from Farmersville, about 45 miles northeast of Dallas, according to NBC 5 in Dallas-Fort Worth.
“Greg was a very beloved man in this community,” according to Farmersville Fire Chief Kim Morris, according to the TV station. “Anything that was going on, you could expect Greg and his boys there. Greg and Tim were very giving. They never asked. They just gave.”
Clifton said the Barbers were doing what they loved to do and that they always lived life to the fullest. He also called it a “tragic accident.”
“He was an extremely accomplished pilot (the senior Barber). It’s an accident. They call it that for a reason,” Clifton said. “A plane just won’t fly without his tail. He got clipped by the other plane. It’s a tragedy for everyone.”
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