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National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Preliminary Report

National Transportation Safety Board
Aviation Accident Preliminary Report

Location: Windsor Locks, CT

Date & Time: 10/02/2019, 0953 EDT

Aircraft: Boeing B17

Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation – Other Work use – Sightseeing

Accident Number: ERA20MA001

Registration: N93012

Injuries: 7 Fatal, 5 Serious, 2 Minor

On October 2, 2019, at 0953 eastern daylight time, a Boeing B-17G, N93012, owned and operated by the Collings Foundation, was destroyed during a precautionary landing and subsequent runway excursion at Bradley International Airport (BDL), Windsor Locks, Connecticut. The commercial pilot, airline transport pilot, and five passengers were fatally injured. The flight mechanic/loadmaster and four passengers were seriously injured, while one passenger and one person on the ground incurred minor injuries. The local commercial sightseeing flight was conducted under the provisions of Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, in accordance with a Living History Flight Experience exemption granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Visual meteorological conditions prevailed in the area and no flight plan was filed for the flight, which departed BDL at 0947.

On the morning of the accident flight, an airport lineman at BDL assisted the loadmaster as he added 160 gallons of 100LL {low lead} aviation fuel to the accident airplane. The lineman stated that the accident airplane was the first to be fueled with 100LL fuel that day.

According to the preliminary air traffic control (ATC) data provided by the FAA, shortly after the takeoff, at 0950, one of the pilots reported to ATC that he wanted to return to the airport. At that time, the airplane was about 500ft above the ground level (agl) on the right crosswind leg of the airport traffic pattern for runway 6. The approach controller verified the request and asked if the pilot required any assistance, to which he replied no. The controller then asked for the reason for the return to the airport, and the pilot replied that the airplane had a “rough Mag” on the No. 4 engine. The controller then instructed the pilot to fly a right downwind leg for runway 6 and confirmed that the flight needed an immediate landing. He subsequently cancelled the approach of another airplane and advised the pilot to proceed however necessary to runway 6. The approach controller instructed the pilot to contact the tower controller, which he did.

The tower controller reported that the winds were calm and cleared the flight to land on runway 6. The pilot acknowledged the landing clearance; at the time, the airplane was about 300 ft agl on midfield right downwind leg for runway 6. The tower controller asked about the airplane’s progress to the runway and the pilot replied they were “getting there” and on the right downwind leg. No further communications were received from the accident airplane. Witness statements and airport surveillance video confirmed that the airplane struck approach lights about 1,000 ft prior to the runway, then contacted the ground about 500 ft prior to the runway before reaching runway 6. It then veered right off the runway before colliding with the vehicles and a deicing fluid tank about 1,100 ft right of the center of the runway threshold.

The wreckage came to rest upright and the majority of the cabin, cockpit, and right wing were consumed by postimpact fire. The landing gear was extended and measurement of the left and right wing flap jackscrews corresponded to a flaps retracted setting. The flap remained attached to the right wing and the aileron was consumed by the fire. The empennage, elevator, and rudder remained intact. Control continuity was confirmed from the elevator, rudder, elevator trim, and rudder trim from each respective control surface to the area in the cabin consumed by fire, and then forward to the cockpit controls. Elevator trim and rudder trim cables were pulled during the impact and their preimpact position on their respective drum at the control surfaces could not be determined. The left wing aileron bellcrank separated from the wing, but the aileron cables remained attached to it and the aileron cable remained attached in cockpit.

The Nos. 1 and 2 engines remained partially attached to the left wing and all three propeller blades remained attached to each engine. One propeller blade attached to engine No. 1 exhibited an 8-inch tip separation; the separated section traveled about 700 ft before coming to rest near an airport building. Another propeller blade on the No. 1 engine exhibited chordwise scratching and leading edge gouging. The third propeller blade was bent aft. The No. 2 engine propeller blades exhibited leading edge gouges and chordwise scratches.

The No. 3 engine was recovered from the top of the deicing tank. One blade was impact damaged and near the feather position. The other two blades appeared in a position between low pitch and feather. One propeller blade exhibited a 5-inch tip separation and the separated tip sections were recovered from 100 ft to 700 ft from the main wreckage. The No. 4 engine was recovered from the deice building. All three propeller blades on the No. 4 engine appeared in the feather position.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

A fuel sample was able to be recovered from on of the No. 3 engine’s two fuel tanks. The recovered sample had a visual appearance and smell consistent with 100LL aviation fuel and was absent of debris or water contamination. Following the accident, the fuel truck used to service the airplane was quarantined and subsequent test revealed no anomalies of the truck’s equipment or fuel supply. Additionally, none of the airplanes serviced with fuel from the truck before or after the accident airplane. Including another airplane operated by the Collings Foundation, reported any anomalies.

The pilot held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, instrument airplane, and held a type rating for the B-17. In addition, he held a mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings, His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on January 9, 2019. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 14,500 hours.

The co-pilot held an airline transport pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multiengine land, and instrument airplane, with type ratings for B-737, B-757, B-767, DC-10 and LR-Jet. In addition, he held a flight engineer certificate as well as a flight instructor certificate with ratings for single-engine and instrument airplane. His most recent FAA second-class medical certificate was issued on January 8, 2019. At that time, he reported a total flight experience of 22,000 hours.

The airplane was manufactured in 1944, issued a limited airworthiness certificate in 1994, and equipped with passenger seats in 1995. It was powered by four Wright R-1820-97, 1,200-horsepower engines, each equipped with a three-bladed with a three-blade, constant-speed Hamilton Standard Propeller. The airplane was maintained under an airworthiness inspection program, which incorporated an annual inspection, a 25-hour, 50-hour, 75-hour, and 100-hour progressive inspections. Review of maintenance records revealed that the airplane’s most recent annual inspection was completed on January 16, 2019. At that time, the airframe had accumulated about 11,120 total hours of operation. Engine Nos. 1, 2l and 3 had 0 hours since major overhaul at that time. Engine No. 4 had 838.2 hours since major overhaul at that time. The airplane’s most recent progressive inspection, which was the 100-hour inspection, was completed on September 23, 2019. At that time, the airplane had been operated about 268 hours since the annual inspection.

Recorded weather at BDL at 0951 included calm wind; 10 statute miles visibility; few clouds at 11,000 ft; few clouds at 14,000 ft; broken clouds at 18,000 ft; temperature 23 degrees Celsius; dew point 19 degrees Celsius, and an altimeter setting of 29.81 inches of mercury.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Boeing

Model/Series: B17 G

Amateur Build: No

Operator: Collings Foundation

Operator Does Business As: Collings Foundation

Registration: N93012

Aircraft Category: Airplane

Operating Certificate(s): None

Operator Designation Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions

Condition of Light: Day

Observation Facility, Elevation: BDL, 175 ft msl

Observation Time: 0951 EDT

Distance from Accident Site: 1 nautical Miles

Temperature/ Dew Point: 23C / 19C

Lowest Cloud Condition: Few /11000 ft agl

Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 18000 ft agl

Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: Calm / .

Visibility: 10 miles

Altimeter Setting: 29.81 Inches Hg

Type of Flight Plan Filed: None

Departure Point: Windsor Locks, CT (BDL)

Destination: Windsor Locks, CT (BDL)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 2 Fatal, 1 Serious

Passenger Injuries: 5 Fatal, 4 Serious, I Minor

Ground Injuries: 1 Minor

Aircraft Damage: Destroyed

Aircraft Fire: On-Ground

Aircraft Explosion: None

Latitude, Longitude: 41.931667, -72.692222

Administrative Information

Investigator In Charge (IIC): Robert J Gretz

Additional Participating Persons: Todd; FAA AVP-100; Washington, DC

Note: The NTSB traveled to the scene of this accident

This is a preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

Me Here...I got a copy of this report from my local aviation museum.

My first speculation of the B-17, "Nine Oh Nine" that it was mis-fueled with jet fuel was wrong.  This report doesn't say what the cause was.  That report will be a year or so before it is done. 

A B-17 is very capable of flying on three or even two engines if properly handled.  This has been done a great many times back during WWII and later.

One thing that has me puzzled is why the gear was down, but the landing flaps were up?  Why so close to the runway were the flaps still up?   According to the pilot's manual the flaps are to be lowered once the airspeed is below 147 MPH.  Lowering the landing gear does come before lowering the flaps.

For those unfamiliar with the flaps, when deployed the flaps lower the stalling speed of the aircraft.  The flaps being up the plane stalls at a higher airspeed.  So could the flight crew's mistake be getting too slow without the flaps deployed and stalling the airplane on final approach?  This would result in the B-17 literally falling out of the air.  This would mean a hard landing short of where the drew was planning to land. 

Not deploying the flaps and thinking they are down has caused many crashes.  That is why flight crews are always, always to use check lists for every part of flight.  Memories fail us especially in times of crisis.  Routine flight is one thing.  When you are having one or more problems a flight crew can become distracted and forget important crew actions.

I am not blaming the flight crew.  I am ONLY pointing out what COULD have happened.  Nothing I have type is to be taken in any way as a conclusion as to what happened that sad day.  I am just thinking out loud.

The NTSB is a most thorough agency.  They will be the agency to officially determine the cause of this tragedy.  I can only hope that groups like Collings Foundation will fully adopt the recommendations to minimize crashes like this.  

I feel it is very important that these flights must continue.  Every plane like this B-17 do more to preserve our history.  With history not being taught in schools, seeing planes like this in flight and being able to walk through them on the ground shows so many what our airman did over Germany, Italy, and Japan during WWII.  A B-17 in a museum behind ropes just isn't the same thing.

We must keep these rare planes flying and flying safely!

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