HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The lethal crash of a B-17 bomber in Connecticut has shaken the ever-smaller group of pilots who fly World War II-era planes that they are saying provide each distinctive challenges and thrills.
Seven individuals have been killed when the airplane crashed and burned Wednesday about eight minutes after taking off from Bradley International Airport. The pilot, Ernest “Mac” McCauley, 75 who was considered one of the skilled B-17 pilots within the nation, reported an issue with an engine, turned again to the airport and touched down earlier than dropping management on a runway and crashing right into a de-icing facility. Co-pilot Michael Foster, 71, additionally died.
The deaths have hit the close-knit aviator group arduous, stated Craig McBurney, a Connecticut pilot who used to fly the identical B-17 for the Collings Foundation instructional group that McCauley was flying for.
“We called ourselves the bomber guys,” stated McBurney, who owns a classic airplane restoration enterprise in Chester. “We are more resolved now to keep this tradition alive. It has to stay. It has to continue.”
Aviation consultants say there are extra dangers related to flying older planes just like the B-17 than with trendy plane. That consists of the shortage of contemporary programs that assist stop post-crash fires and gasoline leakage, stated Michael Slack, an Austin, Texas-based classic plane pilot and lawyer.
McCauley had flown for over 20 years for the Collings Foundation and had logged 7,300 hours in B-17s, in keeping with the National Transportation Safety Board. In a 2014 interview with Plane & Pilot journal, he stated it was an honor to fly such an iconic airplane. But he additionally talked in regards to the challenges.
“The B-17 is a very stable, nice-flying airplane,” he informed the journal. “But, it’s so big that it’s like driving a cement truck on a go-cart track. … It doesn’t like crosswinds. You have this huge mass that wants to swap ends with you all the time.”
Only a small variety of skilled pilots can fly classic army planes, and that quantity has been dwindling as older pilots die, Slack stated. To lose two such pilots without delay hit the small group significantly arduous, stated Eric Whyte, one other Collings Foundation pilot.
“As a very experienced pilot and mechanic, I often picked his brain about the airplanes and he was happy to help,” he wrote in a Facebook put up. “I regret I never took a picture of us flying together. Mac had a ‘no selfies in the cockpit’ rule.”
Whyte declined to talk to The Associated Press and stated the Collings Foundation had requested pilots to not do interviews.
Several aviation fanatics, nonetheless, took to social media to share their grief.
Joe Coraggio, an Arizona pilot who flew with McCauley within the B-17 earlier this yr, stated in a Facebook put up the crash brought about him to suppose “why we fly these old airplanes and do some of the things we do as pilots.”
“We undoubtedly accept more risk by doing so,” wrote Coraggio, who additionally declined an interview request. “But we do these things we do because it is who we are. We are pilots. We get our enjoyment from flying. … We aren’t wired to sit on the sidelines and watch life go by.”
There have been solely 10 B-17 bombers actively flying earlier than the crash, which dropped the quantity to 9. John Cudahy, of the International Council of Air Shows, stated they’re held to a better normal than different classic plane from the period as a result of they do excursions and provides rides.
After a classic airplane is licensed, the operator should keep it in keeping with federal rules. Federal Aviation Administration inspectors conduct periodic inspections. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, which additionally injured seven individuals, one in every of whom was on the bottom.
Chris Ehrmann is a corps member for Report for America , a nonprofit group that helps native information protection, in a partnership with The Associated Press for Connecticut. The AP is solely accountable for all content material.