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FAA says owner of WWII bomber that crashed at Bradley, killing 7, can no longer carry passengers

David Owens, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The Federal Aviation Administration, citing safety concerns, has revoked the Collings Foundation's permission to carry passengers aboard its historic aircraft, one of which crashed and burned at a Connecticut airport in October, killing seven.

The World War II B-17G bomber Nine O Nine developed engine trouble shortly after takeoff from Bradley International Airport on Oct. 2 and crashed as the pilot tried to nurse the crippled aircraft back to the airport. Five passengers who paid $450 each to fly aboard the historic aircraft, the pilot and the co-pilot were killed in the resulting crash and fire.

Four passengers and the flight's crew chief survived, although some suffered serious burns.

In a decision released Wednesday, Robert C. Carty, the FAA's deputy executive director of flight service standards, found that there were problems with two of the aircraft's four engines and that the Collings Foundation did not follow the requirements of its permission to operate the aircraft and carry passengers and "lacked a safety culture when operating the B-17G."

Collings spokesman Hunter Chaney did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday evening.

Collings, of Stow, Mass., has operated a variety of historic aircraft for three decades and toured the country with what it called its "Wings of Freedom" tour. It has made dozens of stops in Connecticut over the years, including the stop at Bradley in the fall. The organization brought five World War II aircraft, including the B-17, a B-24J Liberator bomber, a P-51 Mustang fighter, a P-40 Warhawk fighter and a B-25 Mitchell bomber on Sept. 30 for several days of ground tours and morning and evening flights aboard the B-17 and B-24. Collings charged $450 for "living history flight experiences" on its bombers.

 

The FAA decision revokes the permission Collings had obtained to offer flights for pay, and denies the organization's request to extend that permission for 10 aircraft it owns, including a B-17 it obtained to replace the one that crashed at Bradley.

Less than two weeks after the crash at Bradley, the Collings Foundation appealed to its supporters to voice their support for its application to the FAA to be able to continue to carry passengers on its aircraft.

The permission Collings operated under required it to comply with specific conditions, and the FAA found that it "was not fulfilling several requirements" or satisfying its policy of maintaining "a culture of safety."

The crew chief aboard the flight that crashed had not been trained for his role and told FAA investigators he was "unaware of basic information concerning operations." Instead, he received on-the-job training, according to the decision.

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