Seven dead after a WWII-era B-17 bomber crash at a Connecticut airport

Seven people aboard a vintage World War II plane were killed Wednesday when it crashed shortly after takeoff, erupting into flames at Bradley International Airport, just outside of Hartford, Connecticut, authorities said.

The flight took off at 9:45 a.m. before reporting five minutes later that it was having difficulties, authorities said.

“We observed that the aircraft was not gaining altitude,” Connecticut Airport Authority Executive Director Kevin Dillon said.

The plane tried to return to the airport when it crashed at 9:54 a.m., officials said.

There were 13 people on board the Boeing B-17, two pilots, one attendant, and 10 passengers. Another person on the ground was injured when the plane slid off the runway and slammed into a building used to house the airport’s deicing equipment, officials said.

Witness Brian Hamer, who lives in Norton, Massachusetts, was less than a mile away from the airport when he spotted the B-17, “which you don’t normally see,” flying low overhead.

“Then we heard all the rumbling and the thunder, and all the smoke comes up and we kind of figured it wasn’t good,” Hamer said.

The B-17 waited a few minutes for turbulence from a prior aircraft to clear before it was cleared for takeoff, according to FAA air traffic control audio recorded by the website LiveATC.net.

But shortly after takeoff, the pilot told air traffic control: “N93012 would like to return to the field.”
“What is the reason for coming back?” the controller asked.
“You got No. 4 engine. We’d like to return, and blow it out,” another pilot in the aircraft said.
A pilot said he needed to land immediately, and the control tower diverted other jets that were about to land, the recording indicates.

The crashed B-17 had been one of 18 still registered to fly in the United States, according to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont.

“The tragedy that happened here may be a source of lessons for others that are still flying these B-17s,” Lamont said, adding that investigators have to look “at this plane and the potential causes very carefully.”

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