WEST MIFFLIN, PA (WTNH) — Early Wednesday morning a vintage WWII B-17 bomber aircraft crash-landed at Bradley International Airport while giving a civilian historical flight with 13 passengers on board. As of Wednesday, 7 of those passengers were reported to have died, the remaining passengers sustained significant injuries.
Plane crashes are rare, but the B-17 known as ‘9-0-9’ (for the last three digits in its tail number) has crashed before.
9-0-9 was built in 1944, but was too new to see any combat in WWII. It was named in honor of a 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Squadron of the same name which completed 140 missions in WWII.
The Collings Foundation purchased 9-0-9 in 1986. The bomber has been flying for the foundation’s “Wings of Freedom” historical tours for decades, giving rides to veterans and the general public interested in learning about the history of these WWII bombers.
In 1987, Adam Lynch of WTAE 4 News reported on the rebuild of 9-0-9 after it suffered a landing accident during an air show in Pennsylvania.
In that accident, the National Transportation Safety Board‘s 1987 accident report showed that a crosswind upon landing rotated the plane and lifted one of the wings off the ground – a situation which would have made it difficult for the pilot to slow down. The plane then ran out of runway and continued off an embankment.
Landing in a crosswind is difficult, especially for a plane of 9-0-9’s size and weight.
In this 1987 crash – much like the most recent one – several passengers were injured and there was significant damage to the aircraft.
Lynch reported that “It took 20,000 volunteer hours and $180,000 in buying needed material or services” to rebuild the bomber.
9-0-9 again was involved in a crash in 1995 in Norfolk, Nebraska. Evidently the bomber was rebuilt and returned to service.
That several-times rebuilt bomber is the plane that was involved in the fatal crash Wednesday at Bradley.
The NTSB has just begun their investigation, but, to-date, what is known is that Wednesday morning, the pilot called in to the radio tower with a request for an emergency landing because there seemed to be trouble with one of the four engines.
The investigation is ongoing. Stay tuned to WTNH.com for all updates on this story.