Collings Foundation Suspends Flight Operations as Investigation Into Deadly Bradley Crash Continues

On Friday the NTSB removed the plane's engines from the crash site for further investigation.

What to Know

  • A World War II-era B-17 bomber crashed at Bradley Airport Wednesday, 5 minutes after taking off. Smoke was seen coming from the plane.
  • Seven people were killed in the crash and eight others were injured.
  • Several organizations are investigating, including the NTSB. A team of 10 NTSB staff will be in Connecticut for up to 10 days to investigate

The Collings Foundation is suspending its flight operations and Wings of Freedom tour following the B17 crash at Bradley International Airport that killed seven people and injured eight others on Wednesday.

The 1944 World War II-era B-17 aircraft crashed at the end of a runway around 10 a.m. Wednesday. The NTSB said Thursday investigators were able to determine the plane took off around 9:45 a.m. and radioed in at 9:50 a.m. The crash happened three minutes later.

The plane was at Bradley Airport for the "Wings of Freedom Tour" sponsored by the Collings Foundation. The B-17 bomber was known at one point as the "Flying Fortress" or the 909.

The foundation announced Friday that it was suspending the tour for the remainder of the 2019 season and issuing refunds to anyone with a flight reserved through December.

About the Victims of the B-17 Plane Crash

Seven people were killed in the crash. The survivors have injuries ranging from minor to critical. 

State police released the names of the victims on Thursday afternoon.

Two members of the crew, the 75-year-old pilot, Ernest McCauley, of Long Beach California; and the co-pilot, 71-year-old Michael Foster, of Jacksonville, Florida are presumed dead. The flight engineer, 34-year-old Mitchell Melton, of Dalehart, Texas, was injured. 

One passenger who died has been identified as 56-year-old David Broderick, of West Springfield, Massachusetts. Four others are presumed dead: 66-year-old Gary Mazzone, of Broad Brook; 48-year-old James Roberts. of Ludlow, Massachusetts; 59-year-old Robert Riddell, of East Granby; and 64-year-old Robert Rubner, of Tolland, according to state police. 

The injured passengers include 36-year-old Andy Barrett, of South Hadley, Massachusetts; 62-year-old Linda Schmidt, of Suffield; 62-year-old Tom Scmidt, of Suffield; 48-year-old Joseph Huber, of Tariffville; and 54-year-old James Traficante, of Simsbury.

One airport staff member, Andrew Sullivan, 28, of Enfield, was injured in the crash. 

Mazzone retired in January as a prosecutor's office inspector and previously was a Vernon police officer for 22 years. 

The wife of Robert Riddell, an insurance company analyst from East Granby, said in a Facebook post that her husband was among those killed. 

Robert Riddell had posted a photo from inside the plane just before takeoff. 

James Roberts worked at Hood and was a talented artist who hoped to one day publish a comic book.

Learn more about the victims.

The Investigation Into the B-17 Plane Crash at Bradley Airport

The NTSB arrived on scene late Wednesday and said they expect to be on site for seven to 10 days. On Friday, the plane's engines were removed from the crash site.

The NTSB released the video with our first look inside the plane crash scene in Windsor Locks at Bradley Airport. Investigators are currently surveying the crash site and investigating the cause.
The plane was at Bradley Airport for the "Wings of Freedom Tour" sponsored by the Collings Foundation. The B-17 bomber was known at one point as the "Flying Fortress" or the 909.
The foundation has canceled the last day of the event, which was scheduled for today.

The plane's last major inspection was in January 2019, though the results of those inspections are not yet known, Homendy said Thursday.  The NTSB is investigating a number of possible factors, including the type of fuel used. They are also looking into witness reports that the plane may have been having engine problems before it even took off.

As the investigation into the fatal crash begins, the NTSB said their mission is to determine what happened, why it happened and to prevent it from ever happening again.

The NTSB has requested a number of documents, including the training records for flight crews and transcripts of communications.  The investigative team has already received witness photos and videos, as well as airport security video.  Significant pieces of the plane that remain to help in the investigation.  

The NTSB team in Connecticut includes 10 people, including investigators who have expertise in operations and air worthiness. They said they will also have a drone specialist who will help document the scene.

Members of the NTSB family assistance division will also be available to help connect the families with the resources they need.

The NTSB is asking anyone with information, pictures or video to email

Just before the crash, the pilot signaled that there was engine trouble.

The aircraft indicated to the tower that it was experiencing problems gaining altitude and attempted to return to the airport but lost control, according to the airport authority.

The NTSB said the crew contacted the tower, reported an issue with the airplane, circled back to Runway 6 in an attempt to land, but the aircraft “impacted the instrument landing system’s stanchions” and the plane veered to the right, crossed over a grassy area and taxiway and “impacted a deicing facility.”

The NTSB, citing preliminary information, said the tail number of the aircraft that crashed is N93012 and it is operated by the Collings Foundation, out of Stow, Massachusetts.

The team expects to issue a preliminary report after 10 days, which will provide the information that they have at that time.

Determining the probable cause of the crash, however, will take some time, Homendy said.

She said the NTSB tries to close out investigations in 12 to 18 months and issues a report with recommendations to the appropriate entities.

The Collings Foundation released a statement about the crash on Wednesday morning.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley," the foundation said.

"The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B-17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known," foundation officials added.

Since 1982, the NTSB has investigated 21 accidents involving WWII-era bombers.  Three involved B-17Gs, similar to the plane involved in this crash.  Those 21 incidents resulted in 23 fatalities and one injury.

There are currently 16 Boeing B-17Gs registered in the United States right now, according to the NTSB.  This plane was purchased by the Collings Foundation in 1986.  It was built in 1944 and has four piston-driven engines.

On Friday, the NTSB plans to document the site and move the wreckage.

History of the Vintage B-17 That Crashed at Bradley Airport

According to NTSB Aviation Accident Data, the same plane was involved in a crash on Aug. 23, 1987 in Beaver Falls, Penn. In that incident, one serious injury and two minor injuries were reported. The damage to the aircraft at the time was determined to be "substantial."

The NTSB said part of the investigation will include the history of the aircraft and how it was maintained.

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