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Collings Foundation B-17 Crash

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  • 5 months later...

The preliminary report is very bad for the Collings Foundation. It looks like they are out of the passenger flying business and with good reason. Very sad as someone who flew on the nine-o-nine in the past.


FAA says no passengers on Collings Foundation aircraft after deadly CT crash


FAA says owner of World War II bomber involved in deadly Bradley crash did not take safety seriously and can no longer carry passengers

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  • 2 months later...

Survivors, family of the dead allege ‘negligence, recklessness’ in WWII plane crash

Published June 09. 2020 7:30PM | Updated June 09. 2020 10:18PM

By Julia Bergman Day staff writer


A lawsuit filed recently on behalf of eight of the 10 passengers aboard the World War II-era B-17G bomber that crashed last year at Bradley International Airport alleges the fatal crash was the result of “negligence, recklessness and callous indifference” by the Collings Foundation, which owned and operated the aircraft.


The plaintiffs, five survivors of the crash and the estates of three of the five passengers who died, are being represented by Hartford-based law firm Shipman & Goodwin, which filed the suit on June 4 in Superior Court in Hartford. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages.


The plaintiffs in the suit are Joseph and Jennifer Huber of Tariffville, Thomas and Linda Schmidt of Feeding Hills, Mass., James Traficante of Simsbury and Andrew Barrett of Hadley, Mass., all passengers aboard the flight, and the estates of 64-year-old Robert Rubner of Tolland and 48-year-old James Roberts of Ludlow, Mass.


The Hartford Courant reported Tuesday that other lawsuits are expected to be filed against Collings Foundation on behalf of the two other passengers who died in the crash.


Hunter Chaney, a spokesman for the Stow, Mass.-based Collings Foundation, said by email Tuesday that the foundation would not comment on the lawsuit, the first to be filed against the foundation over the crash.


"In order to obtain technical experience and expertise, the National Transportation Safety Board made The Collings Foundation a party to the pending accident investigation. In that role, the foundation is prohibited, both by the Certification of Party Representative and by federal regulations, from commenting on this matter and disseminating information that is the subject of this investigation,” Chaney said.


The NTSB is investigating the crash, which killed five passengers and the pilot and co-pilot. Five other passengers were seriously injured. In a preliminary report, the NTSB indicated the B-17G may have lost power from two of its engines, but has yet to issue its final report, which usually takes 12 to 18 months to complete.


The Federal Aviation Administration, which allowed Collings to operate the B-17 and nine other aircraft under its “living history flight experiences” exemption, revoked its permission in March, citing lapses in training, maintenance and safety culture when operating the B-17G.


The lawsuit alleges Collings was more interested in making money than in safety.


"In the time period leading up to October 2, 2019, Collings was more focused on opening its American Heritage Museum, growing its assets and increasing the compensation of its executive director than it was on ensuring compliance with its promises to the FAA, its regulatory obligations and the terms and conditions of its own Flight Manual System," the lawsuit says.


On Oct. 2, 2019, the B-17 Flying Fortress made a stop at Bradley Airport as part of Collings’ Wings of Freedom tour, through which the foundation brings its vintage aircraft to airports for public tours and also offers the opportunity to take a flight for $450 per person.


After boarding the four-engine, propeller-driven plane the morning of Oct. 2, the 10 passengers waited about 40 minutes as the crew “struggled” to get the engines on the right side of the plane started, the lawsuit says.


Unbeknownst to the passengers, the two engines on the right side of the plane — No. 3 and No. 4 — experienced “roughness” the day before and the crew chief recommended additional maintenance, which was not performed, the lawsuit says.


The pilot in command, who also was the director of maintenance for all the aircraft of the Wings of Freedom tour, dismissed the crew chief’s recommendation and authorized the B-17 to take off once engines No. 3 and No. 4 were started.


“Because of the pilot in command’s dual role, Collings did not have a structure in place that ensured adequate oversight of his decisions to conduct passenger-carrying operations, including the flight of the B-17G on Oct. 2, 2019,” the lawsuit says.


On the day of the crash, the co-pilot told passengers that the crew was having trouble getting the No. 4 engine started but there was “nothing to be concerned about” and this was “normal” given the wet and humid conditions, the lawsuit says.


Minutes after takeoff, the pilot, Ernest "Mac" McCauley, who has been called one of the most experienced B-17 pilots in the country, reported engine trouble and said the plane was not gaining altitude. As it turned back to the runway, the plane struck approach lights, hit a de-icing facility and burst into flames.


The lawsuit says passengers were never provided guidance on how to use their seat belts nor were they inspected to ensure they were properly fastened.


“Five of the passengers sat on the floor for (takeoff) and landing and never had benefit of properly secured (seat belts) and lacked even the most basic understanding of how to exit the plane in the event of an emergency,” the lawsuit says.


James Traficante, commander of the Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing based in East Granby, was seated closest to the rear hatch and watched the crew secure the hatch prior to take off. Following the crash, Traficante was able to open the hatch and assist others in getting out.


Cargo was not properly stored aboard, according to the lawsuit, which alleges that steel wheel chocks, which were stacked and unrestrained in the tail gunners’ section of the aircraft, “became deadly projectiles during the crash.”





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I've seen both 909 and Witchcraft, Did not ride but crawled through both. My impression was they were well-maintained, and the crews seemed professional and competent. Further it's always seemed to me that Collings is very well funded, so to read that their maintenance was shoddy was surprising. As though they were a shoestring outfit hanging financially on by their fingernails. Perhaps the '08 recession hit them harder than they've let on.

Edited by beans4
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I really want to hear the foundation's side, as that article clearly did not provide it.


If criminal charges were not brought, there must have been reasons.

The NTSB report was damning. As for criminal charges, this is pretty clearly a matter of civil negligence. It did get their licence to carry passengers revoked.
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