Vintage WWII plane crashes, killing 7 in Connecticut… was coming to Morristown next week

Wreckage of B-17 Flying Fortress at Bradley International Airport, Oct. 2, 2019. Image: WABC-TV.
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A B-17 “Flying Fortress” crashed Wednesday during a sightseeing flight at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, killing seven people and injuring seven others.

Smoke billows from fatal crash of WWII-vintage bomber at Bradley Airport in Connecticut, Oct. 2, 2019. Image: WABC-TV

The World War II-era warplane was scheduled to visit Morristown Airport on Monday with the Wings of Freedom Tour, sponsored by the Collings Foundation, a Massachusetts nonprofit founded in 1979 to preserve iconic military aircraft and vehicles.

MorristownGreen.com rumbled over Morristown in this plane in 2013. (Video below.)

According to news reports, the four-engine bomber only was aloft for about five minutes Wednesday morning when the pilot radioed the airport he was returning for an emergency landing.

“Number four engine, we’d like to return and blow it out,” the pilot explained to the control tower, according to a recorded audio transmission.

The plane touched down and smashed into a de-icing shed, erupting in flames and spewing thick black smoke that could be seen for miles.

ABC News video of crash scene:

Thirteen people — three crew members, and 10 aviation buffs who paid up to $450 apiece for a 30-minute flight–reportedly were aboard the aircraft. Initial reports said someone on the ground was among the injured.

The Collings Foundation website was offline after the crash, but the organization issued a statement:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley,” said the Stow, Mass., foundation, adding its flight crew “is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

“Right now my heart really goes out to the families,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont. “Our hearts are broken for them right now. We’re doing everything we can.”

Scott Culver, who is writing a book about his late father's WWII aviation exploits, poses with B-17 at Morristown Airport. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Scott Culver, who is writing a book about his late father’s WWII aviation exploits, poses with ill-fated B-17 at Morristown Airport in September 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The airport, north of Hartford in Windsor Locks, was closed for several hours after the crash, which occurred shortly before 10 a.m.

Nicknamed the Nine-O-Nine, this plane was one of only nine B-17s in flying condition in the United States, according to the Collings Foundation.

During World War II, B-17s bombarded Nazi Germany. They were called Flying Fortresses because of the firepower they packed–and because of their ability to survive enormous damage.

Spectators viewing the B-17 Flying Fortress on September 7, 2016 at the Wings of Freedom Tour at the Morristown Airport.
Spectators viewing the B-17 Flying Fortress on September 7, 2016, at the Wings of Freedom Tour at the Morristown Airport.

The Nine-O-Nine entered military service in April 1945, near the end of the war, and never saw combat. Later, it flew as a “fire bomber,” dropping water on forest fires in Canada.

At a Pennsylvania airshow in 1987, the plane got caught in a crosswind after landing and roared off a runway down a 100-foot ravine. Three people were injured, and the aircraft required extensive repairs.

MorristownGreen.com shot video from the Nine-O-Nine six years ago.

“You kind of have to manhandle the plane around because there’s no hydraulic boost anywhere on it,” pilot Mark Henley told Morristown Green at the time.

“We’re doing it for the fun of it. There’s nobody shooting at us, there’s nobody trying to bring us down. Back in the day, it had to be a terrifying event. Some of the bomber crews, early in the war, were only seeing a 30 percent survival rate.”

Whether Henley was on Wednesday’s flight could not be determined. Officials did not immediately release names of those aboard.

Video: Flying in the Nine-O-Nine over Morristown, 2013:

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