Multiple Fatalities After WWII-Era B-17 'Flying Fortress' Crashes in Flames

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FILE -- In this photo taken June 2, 2018 photo, the Nine-O-Nine, a Collings Foundation B-17 Flying Fortress taxis after landing at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, Calif.  (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
FILE -- In this photo taken June 2, 2018 photo, the Nine-O-Nine, a Collings Foundation B-17 Flying Fortress taxis after landing at McClellan Airport in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

A restored World War II-era B-17 "Flying Fortress" crashed in flames Wednesday morning while attempting an emergency landing at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, resulting in what authorities described as multiple fatalities.

The crash at the airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, was the latest in a number of fatal accidents involving vintage aircraft. The aircraft participate in touring displays and air shows, sometimes offering rides to the public.

At a news conference, Connecticut authorities said there were fatalities among the crew of three and 10 passengers aboard the B-17, but did not say how many.

The Hartford Courant, citing sources, said at least five people were killed and nine injured when the B-17 skidded while attempting to land. The plane crashed into an airport building shortly before 10 a.m., sending up a fireball and pillars of smoke. At least one person on the ground was reported to be injured, state public safety Commissioner James Rovella told the paper.

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At the news conference, Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, said the B-17 took off at about 9:45 a.m. About five minutes later, the pilot radioed the tower that he was experiencing an as-yet undefined problem, he added.

"We did observe that the aircraft was not getting any altitude," Dillon said.

The pilot swung the aircraft around and attempted to land but "obviously lost control" when the plane hit the runway, according to Dillon.

In a posting immediately after the crash, airport officials said, "We can confirm that there was an accident involving a Collings Foundation World War II aircraft [Wednesday] morning at Bradley Airport.

"We have an active fire and rescue operation underway" and "the airport is closed," the officials said.

A Hartford Hospital spokesman said the facility had received six patients injured in the crash, one by Life Star helicopter, but did not disclose their conditions.

The B-17 that crashed in Connecticut was part of a tribute to WWII veterans in the Collings Foundation's "Wings of Freedom" tour, which also features a B-24 Liberator bomber, a P-51 Mustang fighter and a B-25 Mitchell bomber.

The nonprofit Collings Foundation, based in Stow, Massachusetts, is dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage aircraft and automobiles.

"Such an unfortunate situation with an historic aircraft," Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said via Twitter. He said several state agencies had responded to the scene.

The four-prop Boeing B-17s were a mainstay of the air campaign against Nazi Germany and became a symbol of U.S. air power and strategic bombing dominance.

The most recent fatal crash of a vintage aircraft occurred in Fredericksburg, Texas, in November 2018. The pilot and a passenger, a World War II veteran, in a P-51 Mustang fighter were killed when the plane, which had just participated in a flyby, crashed into the parking lot of a housing complex.

In September 2011, a P-51 Mustang participating in the Reno Air Races in Nevada crashed into the crowd, killing the pilot and 10 spectators and injuring 69.

Also in 2011, a restored B-17 known as the "Liberty Belle" made an emergency crash landing in a field near Oswego, Illinois, when one of its engines caught fire.

One person aboard was slightly injured, but another six managed to escape before the aircraft burst into flames, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The "Liberty Belle" was owned by the Liberty Foundation, another nonprofit that participates in air shows and offers rides to the public on vintage aircraft.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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