By Ken Stone and Chris Stone
The World War II-era B-17G bomber that crashed Wednesday morning in Connecticut, killing at least seven, was part of an aerial convoy that came to San Diego County in May.
That month, the Wings of Freedom Tour made stops at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad and at Ramona Airport.
World War II veterans shared their experiences with the public at the tour stop care of the Collings Foundation. Visitors were invited to fly in the 74-year-old B-17 for $450.
A spokesman for the tour didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to news reports, 10 passengers and three crew members were aboard the vintage bomber, nicknamed “Nine-O-Nine,” taking off at Bradley International Airport near Hartford.
“About five minutes after the plane took off,” said The New York Times, “its crew contacted the tower and reported an issue, said Jennifer Homendy, a National Transportation Safety Board member.”
No victims had been identified publicly by late Wednesday.
Officials said that none of the dead were children, but two who perished were firefighters from Simsbury, Conn. One injured passenger was a member of the Connecticut Air National Guard, the Times reported.
Story continues below
Gov. Ned Lamont described the victims as “husbands and wives and brothers and sisters and children, and all members of our Connecticut family,” the Times said.
The NTSB would be looking at the plane’s maintenance records, fueling history and flight hours, Homendy said.
“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 Times said.
The tour came to Carlsbad May 2-5 and continued to Ramona on May 6-8. In 2016, the B-17 was displayed at an earlier tour stop at El Cajon’s Gillespie Field.
- Related: WWII History Lands in Carlsbad with Warplanes You Can Fly, Vets You Can Meet
- Related: Historic World War II Aircraft Coming to Gillespie Field
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.
“The landing gear sheared off, the chin turret was smashed and pushed into the nose; the Plexiglas nose was shattered; bomb bay doors, fuselage, fuselage, ball turret, wing and nacelles all took a tremendous beating. Engines and propellers were also torn form their mounts. Fortunately, there were no fatalities to the crew or riders although there were injuries.”
On Facebook, the Collings Foundation said: “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 foundation said its flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash “and will comment further when details become known.”
According to Wikipedia, as of thus month, 10 B-17s were airworthy, “though none of them were ever flown in combat.”
The B-17 that crashed Wednesday was built in Long Beach by the Douglas Aircraft Co. and was used in the final scene of “Thunderball” in 1965.
The foundation said the B-17 was accepted on April 7, 1945.
“Although she was too late for combat, #44-83575 did serve as part of the Air/Sea 1st Rescue Squadron and later in the Military Air Transport Service,” a foundation profile said.
“In April 1952, #44-83575 was instrumented and subjected to the effects of three different nuclear explosions,” its owner said. “After a 13-year ‘cool down’ period, #44-83575 was sold as part of an 800-ton scrap pile and Aircraft Specialties Company began the restoration of the aircraft.”
“For twenty years, without a major problem or incident, #44-83575 served as a fire bomber dropping water and borate on forest fires.
“She was sold in January 1986 to the Collings Foundation. Restored back to her original wartime configuration by Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft, she represented one of the finest B-17 restorations and won several awards.”
In July 2014, disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham of San Diego wrote to a judge on the eve of his release from federal prison.
He said in a letter that he volunteered with Wings of Freedom, a group that flies vintage aircraft at air shows and “promotes patriotism, Christian values and a love of flying.”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: