Seven Dead After B-17 Crashes, Bursts into Flames at Bradley Airport

Getty Images
Getty Images

Officials say there were 3 crew and 10 passengers on board the B-17 and they report 7 dead and others injured at Bradley International Airport.

Similar to the Beaver County crash, the B-17 appeared to have been attempting to land when the crash occurred and one eye witness said he saw one engine out.

“Brian Hamer, a witness at the airport, told a local television station, Fox 61, that one of the plane’s engines sounded like it had lost power. Then the aircraft began to ‘sputter and smoke’ and ‘made a very, very wide turn’ before crashing,”

The plane was trying to return to the runway when it crashed at 9.54am. Getty Images.
The plane was trying to return to the runway when it crashed at 9.54am. Getty Images.

Owned by the Collings Foundation, of Stow, Mass., the B-17 was built too late for combat, and later was used for air/sea rescues, was subject to the effects of three separate nuclear explosions in 1952, and later served as a firebomber, dropping water and borate on forest fires.

Apparently the plane began to have trouble only moments after it took off, and soon went straight into the side of a building as the pilot, presumably, tried to correct the problem and then land. In addition to those killed in the crash, one individual on the airstrip was hurt during the incident.


The plane is the property of the Collings Foundation, of Massachusetts, a  non-profit organization that owns, restores and allows folks to tour vintage, wartime aircraft. Several of its planes were at Bradley Airport this week for an aeronautics event known as “Wings Of Freedom,” which allows visitors to view and tour these planes.

The B-17 also had another in August 1987, while performing at an airshow in western Pennsylvania, “Nine-O-Nine” was caught by a severe crosswind moments after touchdown, the foundation said on its website.

“The right wing lifted in the air, finally coming down too far down the runway. Despite the efforts of her crew, she rolled off the end of the runway, crashed through a chain link fence, sheared off a power pole and roared down a 100-foot ravine to a thundering stop,” the site said.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont was present for the news conference alerting the public to the crash. He told The Courant, “I got a call from the commissioner a while ago and he said, ‘It’s pretty bad.’ And coming over here as fast (as possible) we saw the fire engines and the responders and the last of the smoke plumes, (which) gave us a sense of what we were confronting.”

He added, “Right now, my heart really goes out to all the families who are waiting (for news).” He assured the media he would do all he could to ensure people are told as quickly, and as sensitively as possible.

Kevin Dillon, executive director of the Connecticut Airport Authority, confirmed that they knew the plane was in trouble almost immediately after take off.

“We observed that the aircraft was not getting any altitude,” he said. Although the pilot contacted the tower to say he had a problem, Dillon did not say — if, in fact, he knew — what that problem was. When it crashed, it hit a building used for storing ice removal equipment, and consequently chemicals spilled. The airport closed for several hours after the crash, but resumed operations in the early afternoon.

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A statement from the Collings Foundation on their Facebook page:

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we be will forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley.

The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE