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B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:51 pm
Post subject: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

But the aircraft is a total loss. Glad everyone got out OK, though.


"A vintage World War II bomber crashed and burned in a field southeast of Aurora Municipal Airport this morning, but the seven people on board escaped without injury, according to aviation officials.

The plane, a B-17 known as a "Flying Fortress," took off from the airport at 9:30 a.m. and went down about three or four miles from Aurora about 20 minutes later, according to Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration. "The plane is burning. We believe the seven people on board escaped without injury."

The pilot made an emergency landing in a cornfield near Highway 71 and Minkler Road in Oswego after reporting an engine fire, according to Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle. Fire Departments from Oswego, Sugar Grove and Plainfield on the scene.

Jim Barry was at his home in the Deerpath Creek subdivision when he heard a plane flying low overhead. "The windows were rattling. I said, 'That's a crop duster.' "

He looked out and saw the bomber and a smaller yellow plane. An engine on the left wing of the bomber -- the one farthest from the cockpit --- was on fire.

"Not a lot of flames, just more smoke than flames," Barry said.

The pilot managed to set the plane down in a gap between a relay tower about 60 to 70 feet high and a line of trees 25 to 30 feet high -- around 500 yards from his home. "He did a great job," Barry said.

Once the plane was on the ground, flames started shooting 50 feet in the air. Within minutes, emergency crews were at the crash site.

"It was shocking," Barry said.

A neighbor told him she saw the words "Liberty Belle" on the nose of the plane.

His neighbor, Drew Mundsinger, was driving back home with his son after dropping off other children at school when they saw the plane flying low overhead. A smaller plane was flying with the B-17.

Mundsinger said he knew the plane was in the area providing rides and didn't think much of it. When they came close to their home, they saw large plumes of dark smoke filling the air and at first thought it was someone burning leaves.

Then he and his son realized one of the planes had crashed. By the time he reached his home, he saw the plane burning in a cornfield about 500 yards behind his home.

"When we first came here, it looked like nothing could survive that," Mundsinger said. "It looked to be right by my subdivision so I got worried. The scary thing is, it was heading right at our house.

“It made my heart race up a beat," he added. "I can clearly look straight out at it.”

Gene Sheeley was loading groceries into his car outside a Jewel store when he heard a plane flying overhead. Looking up, Sheeley said he noticed the bomber was gliding extremely low over the intersection of Orchard Road and Illinois Route 71 in Oswego.

“I thought this puppy is flying low, but I didn’t realize it was going to crash,” Sheeley said.

But moments later Sheeley, 72, saw a large plume of black smoke rising into the clear blue sky. “The first thing that came to my mind was did anybody get hurt,” Sheeley said.

The B-17 was primarily deployed by the U.S. Army Air Forces in daylight strategic bombing of German industrial and military targets. It also participated to a lesser extent in the Pacific, where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfields.

The plane that crashed was manufactured in 1944 and is registered to the Liberty Foundation in Miami, Fla., which restored the "Liberty Belle." The plane was at the Aurora Municipal Airport on Saturday and Sunday, according to the foundation's website.

The "Liberty Belle" was sold on June 25, 1947 as scrap to Esperado Mining Co. of Altus, Okla. and was sold again later that year to Pratt & Whitney for $2,700, according to the foundation's website.

Whitney operated the B-17 from Nov. 19, 1947 to 1967 to test turboprop engines. It was donated in the late 1960s to the Connecticut Aeronautical Historic Association in East Hartford, but was heavily damaged in 1979 when a tornado threw another aircraft against the B-17’s mid-section, breaking the fuselage, the foundation said.

It was stored in the New England Air Museum in Connecticut until the foundation began restoring it.

The plane travels around the country, giving rides to the public at $430 each. It most recently was in Indianapolis, Dayton and Cincinnati."

"All facts go to clearly prove that Shades is a thrice-cursed traitor & mentally deranged person steeped in inveterate enmity toward mankind"
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Aircraft Demolition Expert

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:48 pm
Post subject: Re: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

drats !

another piece of history destroyed, what a waiste,

good to hear all got out safely.

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Last edited by Uhu_Fledermaus on Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:10 am
Post subject: Re: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

What a shame, but at least no one was seriously hurt.


"The road to a friend's house is never long"
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 11:52 am
Post subject: Re: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

Sad At least the crew is alive...
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:44 pm
Post subject: Re: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

Yep it's great to hear that everyone got out OK. But it's a tough call to say whether these planes should be parked forever or kept flying when possible. It's a shame to lose them but it's also sad to see them destined to become lifeless hunks of metal parked for good in the corner of a building. Kudos to those that have the resources and nerve to fly them, and in them.

"Once your reputation is ruined, you can live quite freely."
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 5:17 pm
Post subject: Re: B-17 "Liberty Belle" is lost, crew and passengers safe

Statement from the foundation:

Statement from Liberty Foundation Chief Pilot:

June 14, 2011 - First, let me start off by sincerely thanking everyone for the outpouring of support that we are receiving. I am sorry that I have not yet had the opportunity to return the many phone calls, text or e-mails that I am receiving offering to help. Again, thank you for all of the kind words that we are receiving and for incredible offers to help emotionally, financially and/or with the recovery process. I hope this statement will help fill in a few details that everyone is wondering about that led to the loss of our “Liberty Belle”.

Yesterday (June 13, 2011) morning, both our P-40 and B-17 were scheduled to fly from Aurora, Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana. We were in Aurora for the weekend as a part of our scheduled tour. Over the course of the previous week, we completed a scheduled 25-hour inspection on the B-17 which was completed by Saturday. On Saturday, the weather stayed below the required ceiling to give any passenger flights, however the B-17 flew in the morning on a routine training proficiency flight, performing several patterns. Following the flight, other maintenance issues arose that required us to cancel our Sunday flying schedule for repairs. The maintenance performed has not been, in any way, associated to the chain of events that led to Monday’s fateful flight, but is being considered in the preliminary investigation. However, due to the media’s sensational (mis)reporting, there is a large amount of misinformation that continues to lead the news.

Here is what we do know… Flying in the left seat of the B-17 was Capt. John Hess. John has been flying our Liberty Belle since 2005 and one of our most experienced B-17 pilots. He is an active Delta Air Lines Captain with over 14,000 hours of flying experience and flies a variety of vintage WWII aircraft. In the right seat was Bud Sittic. While Bud is new to the Liberty Foundation this year, he is also incredibly experienced with over 14,000 hours of flying time in vintage and hi-performance aircraft. He is a retired Captain with Delta Air Lines.

The news misidentified the P-40 as flying chase during the accident. I was flying our P-40, however I had departed 20 minutes prior to the B-17’s takeoff on the short flight to Indianapolis to setup for the B-17’s arrival. The aircraft flying chase was a T-6 Texan flown by owner Cullen Underwood. Cullen is one of our rated B-17 Captains and an experienced aviator tagging along as a support ship.

The takeoff of both aircraft was uneventful and proceeded on-course southeast. Prior to exiting Aurora’s airport traffic area, the B-17 crew and passengers began investigating an acrid smell and started a turn back to the airport. Almost immediately thereafter, Cullen spotted flames coming from the left wing and reported over the radio that they were on fire.

As all pilots know, there are few emergency situations that are more critical than having an in-flight fire. While an in-flight fire is extremely rare, it can (and sometimes does) indiscriminately affect aircraft of any age or type. In-flight fires have led to the loss of not only aircraft, but often can result in catastrophic loss of life. It requires an immediate action on the flight crew, as the integrity of aircraft structure, systems and critical components are in question.

Directly below the B-17 was a farmer’s field and the decision was made to land immediately. Approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds from the radio report of the fire, the B-17 was down safely on the field. Within that 1:40 time frame, the crew shutdown and feathered the number 2 engine, activated the engine’s fire suppression system, lowered the landing gear and performed an on-speed landing. Bringing the B-17 to a quick stop, the crew and passengers quickly and safely exited the aircraft. Overhead in the T-6, Cullen professionally coordinated and directed the firefighting equipment which was dispatched by Aurora Tower to the landing location.

Unlike the sensational photos that you have all seen of the completely burned B-17 on the news, you will see from photos taken by our crew that our Liberty Belle was undamaged by the forced landing and at the time of landing, the wing fire damage was relatively small. The crew actually unloaded bags, then had the horrible task of watching the aircraft slowly burn while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. There were high hopes that the fire would be extinguished quickly and the damage would be repairable. Those hopes were diminished as the fire trucks deemed the field too soft to cross due to the area’s recent rainfall. So while standing by our burning B-17 and watching the fire trucks parked at the field’s edge, they sadly watched the wing fire spread to the aircraft’s fuel cells and of course, you all have seen the end result. There is no doubt that had the fire equipment been able to reach our aircraft, the fire would have been quickly extinguished and our Liberty Belle would have been repaired to continue her worthwhile mission.

Let me go on the record by thanking the flight crew for their professionalism. Their actions were nothing short of heroic and their quick thinking, actions and experience led to a “successful” outcome to this serious in-flight emergency. John and Bud (and Cullen) did a remarkable job under extreme circumstances and performed spectacularly. While the leading news stories have repeatedly reported the “crash” of our B-17, fact is they made a successful forced landing and the aircraft was ultimately consumed by fire. Airplanes are replaceable but people are not and while the aircraft’s loss is tragic, it was a successful result.

This leads me into discussing the exceptional safety record of the Boeing B-17 and to hopefully squash the naysayers who preach we should not be flying these types of aircraft. Since we first flew the “Liberty Belle” in December of 2004, we have flown over 20,000 passengers throughout the country and if you count our historic trip to Europe in 2008, worldwide. Of the other touring B-17s, some of which that have been touring for over 20 years, they have safely flown hundreds of thousands of people. The aircraft’s safety record is spectacular and I am certain the overall cause of our issue, which is under investigation, will not tarnish that safety record. In fact, as many of you know, other B-17 have suffered significant damage (although not as bad as ours!), only to be re-built to fly again. From a passenger carrying standpoint, I can think of few aircraft that offer the same level of safety as the 4-engine “Flying Fortress”. As mentioned earlier, in-flight fires are extremely rare and certainly could affect any powered aircraft under certain circumstances. I would put my children today in any of the other touring B-17s to go fly. I suggest to anyone that was thinking of doing so when a B-17 visits your area to do so without giving our loss any thought.

There is wild speculation going on as to the cause of our fire and the affect to other operators. Please let the investigation run its course and report the findings. The NTSB and FAA were quickly on the scene and we are working closely with them to aid in the investigation. As soon as we receive some additional information, we will release it via the website.

The ultimate question remains, where does the Liberty Foundation go from here? After the investigation and recovery, we will determine our options. We are still committed to the restoration and flying of World War II aircraft. Again, we appreciate the support and people offering to help get us back flying.

Please check back for updates. I will close by thanking everyone that made our tour so successful. From the first day of the B-17’s restoration, thank you for all of you who labored to get her flying over the initial restoration years and to everyone that has worked on her out on tour since. Thank you to the crewmembers, tour coordinators and volunteers who gave up weekends and countless hours to support her on the road. And finally, thank you to the passengers, donors and media patrons that flew aboard and everyone who supported our cause. Hopefully, this will not be the end of the story, but a new beginning.

Ray Fowler
The Liberty Foundation, Chief Pilot

Posted by Liberty Belle B-17 at 11:11 AM

"All facts go to clearly prove that Shades is a thrice-cursed traitor & mentally deranged person steeped in inveterate enmity toward mankind"
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