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WWII B-17 Bomber Force Lands on Fire, DestroyedTim King Salem-News.com
Seven souls walk away unharmed thanks to a top notch pilot and crew.
(SALEM, Ore.) - One of the remaining World War Two B-17 'Flying Fortress' bomber aircraft in existence, the 'Liberty Belle', was forced to make an emergency landing in an Illinois cornfield Monday while on fire. All seven aboard safely escaped after the plane landed. The plane was owned and operated by The Liberty Foundation in Miami.
FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory told Reuters in an email. "The plane departed the airport, noted an emergency and the pilot made what appears to be an emergency landing, after which the plane was consumed by fire."
The group's Website is down and that is unfortunate.
The video below shows how thoroughly the fire devastated the otherwise beautiful plane after it had landed and been evacuated. The B-17 reportedly had an engine fire begin shortly after taking off from Aurora's Municipal Airport. The pilot then opted to land in an Oswego cornfield outside of Chicago.
The crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
Regular readers of Salem-News.com might be surprised to know that I spent years studying this type of plane's role in WWII as we produced the Oregon Public Broadcasting titled 'Fallen Fortress at Cape Lookout' that took three years to produce.
Along the way I talked to many B-17 pilots and crew members and learned a great deal about their harrowing and often very short lives. I suspect the seven aboard this plane partly understand the dynamics that so many WWII airmen experienced.
Those who have studied the available video of WWII B-17 landings in the war theater know that many of these landings ended tragically, and also that there are few planes that could withstand the amount of damage that this four-engined mighty bomber could.
It is also true that the Boeing B-17 was the star of the war among the four-engine bombers and it received a great deal of press in comparison to the B-24 Liberator which had similar capabilities and comparable size, but was a more dangerous plane primarily because its fuel system was exposed when the plane's bomb bay doors were open.
The airplane was powered by Pratt & Whitney engines that produced 1200 horsepower each and user turbo/superchargers to increase power for take off and high altitude flight. I've seen a number of crashed B-17's in my travels in addition to the B-17 at Cape Lookout. A very large number of the
The fact that seven souls walked away from this emergency aircraft incident is a tremendous testimony to the plane's pilot and crew. Quick thinking evasive action took place in time to avoid tragedy. There are a number of B-17's around still and if they are used as flying museums, they are still accomplishing a great mission. Sadly, there have been fatal crashes of WWII planes in recent years at airshows. The fact that death was avoided is all that matters.
According to Wikipedia, there are a total of 51 surviving airframes worldwide:
Of the 12,731, more than two third's were lost in combat.
Notable loss figures from Wikipedia:
The 8th Air Force targeted the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt 17 August 1943 with 230 attacking B-17s intercepted by an estimated 300 Luftwaffe fighters. The Germans shot down 36 aircraft with the loss of 200 men, and coupled with a raid earlier in the day against Regensburg, a total of 60 B-17s were lost that day.
You would think that was bad enough...
A second attempt on Schweinfurt on 14 October 1943 became known as "Black Thursday". The attack disrupted the target but at an extreme cost. Of 291 attacking Flying Fortresses, 60 were shot down over Germany, five crashed on approach to Britain, and 12 more were scrapped due to damage – a total loss of 77 B-17s.
Only 33 of the 291 planes were undamaged.
The 8th Air Force commander cancelled a mission to Schweinfurt 11 January 1944 as the weather deteriorated, but the first planes had already entered hostile air space and continued on. Most of the escorts turned back or missed the rendezvous, and as a result 60 B-17s were destroyed.
I believe the cornfield landing is testimony to both this historic plane's tragedies, and accomplishments.
WWII Documentary Unearthed: B-17 Plane Crash Sole Survivor's Story - Tim King Salem-News.com
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