AUBURN — A vintage World War II bomber that crashed shortly after takeoff Wednesday morning at Bradley International Airport, just outside Hartford, Connecticut, was among five aircraft that were on display at the DeKalb County Airport in August.
The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour features the WW II-era Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress that crashed, along with a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and North American P-51 Mustang.
Wednesday, the 1944 Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress reportedly crashed less than 10 minutes following take-off after experiencing an engine problem in the air, according to reports. The pilots tried to return to the runway but lost control upon touchdown and hit a maintenance facility and tanks containing deicing fluids.
Preliminary reports said 10 passengers and three crew members were on the plane. Six people were being treated at a Hartford Hospital. One person in the maintenance building was injured. Multiple fatalities were reported, but no number was immediately offered, nor were the names of those killed.
The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour flew into the DeKalb County Airport for a three-day event Aug. 5-7. where people could take 30-minute flights aboard the rare aircraft, tour the planes or take in-flight training on a couple of the smaller models.
During the first day of the event at the DeKalb County Airport, Robert Tobey, 96, of Monticello was among those waiting in the airport to view the restored B-17, a plane he flew as a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps over Italy. The plane was known to be a heavy bomber that was mostly used in Germany and Western Europe during World War II. He brought along his complete flight log for the event.
Tobey, whose recollections drew many listeners in the airport terminal’s lobby, said he was trained in the four-engine aircraft, featuring four, 400-horsepower engines, in October 1944. Tobey looked over the exterior of the Flying Fortress on the runway, then took a look inside the ammunition hold that once housed as many as four tons of bombs, he said.
He opted not to take a ride in the plane that day at a cost of $450, quipping that he rode in it for free as a pilot.
The Collings Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to the preserving transportation-related history, lists nearly 40 flyable aircraft ranging from a 1909 Bieriot XI Monoplane to a 1967 Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk.
Dubbed the Nine-O-Nine, the Collings' B-17 was built too late for combat, but did serve as part of the Air/Sea 1st Rescue Squadron and later in the Military Air Transport Service, according to the Collings Foundation. It then participated in nuclear testing in 1952, and the plane later served as a fire bomber, dropping water and borate on forest fires. It was sold in January 1986 to the Collings Foundation.
In 1987, the Collings B-17 crashed during an air show in Western Pennsylvania, causing injuries but no fatalities. The plane has made more than 1,200 tour stops since the 1987 crash.
The Collngs Foundation website was not available Wednesday afternoon.