The "Texas Raiders" B-17, owned by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), started its life as a Boeing PB-1 AWACS. Registered as 44-83872, this PB-1W was among the last 20 B-17s built by Douglas under license with Boeing. It came off the production line in Long Beach, California, on July 12, 1945, and entered service with VX-4 at NAS Patuxent River in the United States Navy nine days later on July 21.
In August of 1955, this PB-1W was phased out with a total flight time of 3,257 hours. After being in flyable storage for two years, Aero Service Corporation bought 44-83872 in 1957, where it would spend the next decade flying aerial surveys across North America under the registration of N7227C.
Shortly after the CAF (Confederate Air Force at the time) bought the PB-1W, it would spend the remainder of its life flying war heroes, airshow enthusiasts, and people from various walks of life. N7227C performed in airshows for decades, bringing joy to all who witnessed her. The aircraft was christened "Texas Raiders" in 1973 to honour all the veterans of Texas.
After many years of restoration, airshow flying, and hardships, the aircraft was moved to Conroe, Texas, in 2017, where it would be stationed for the remainder of its life.
For some, Texas Raiders has become a mere memory for those who never got to experience them. For those who experienced the Texas Raiders, it left a long-lasting and unforgettable impact. The Texas Raiders crew and aircraft hold a special place in my heart, as well as the hearts of millions of others. Today marks the one-year memorial of the tragic passing of Craig Hutain and the five souls lost on board the B-17, famously known as "Texas Raiders".
On November 12 at Wings Over Dallas, the world of aviation came to a halt. Some might say time stood still as thousands watched a nightmare become a reality as news broke of an incident during the annual airshow.
During the warbird parade performance, a P-63 Kingcobra collided with the "Texas Raiders" B-17. The P-63 clipped the tail of the B-17, separating the fuselage from the empennage and causing the forward fuselage to cartwheel toward the ground. The crowd witnessed in shock as pieces came hurdling toward the earth.
As the aircraft hit the ground, a ball of fire immediately expanded throughout the area. First responders rushed toward the crash site to render first aid, but sadly, all six individuals on board both aircraft perished.
The Commemorative Air Force established a memorial for the Texas Raiders at the Montgomery County Veteran's Memorial Park in Conroe, Texas, in memory of the crew members who perished in the accident.
In a single article, it's quite difficult to summarize the memories, airshows, emotions, and history of the Texas Raiders and her crew. In the end, this was an accident no one expected to witness. Let this article stand as a memorial and tribute to the victims and the victims' loved ones as they mourn the loss of their friends and family.
To all blessed with seeing, hearing, and photographing N7227C, it is essential to remember the passion and joy the crew so strongly endeavoured to gift us. Blue skies and tailwinds to Terry Barker, Kevin Michels, Dan Reagan, Leonard Root, Curt Rowe, and Craig Hutain.🙏
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