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On October 2, 2019, on a Wings of Freedom tour stop at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine O Nine developed a problem shortly after takeoff during a flight experience. Three crew members and ten paying passengers were aboard. Upon their immediate return to the airport and landing, the aircraft crashed. The Nine O Nine struck approach lights during the landing attempt, then struck vehicles and a deicing fluid storage tank, ending with an explosion and huge fire.
Pilot Ernest “Mac” McCauley, co-pilot Michael Foster, and five passengers were killed. One crew member and five passengers with varying degrees of injuries survived and one person on the ground was injured. The NTSB investigation into the accident is ongoing.
Prior to the accident, the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour was having a record year of attendance, the most in thirty years. And the foundation’s new American Heritage Museum at their Massachusetts campus held its grand opening in May.
The accident represents a tragic loss of life and the loss of a piece of history, the B-17 Nine O Nine. But the Collings Foundation will continue their mission to preserve history with their aircraft restoration projects and tours.
The restoration of the Collings Foundation’s other B-17, which they acquired from the Evergreen Air and Space Museum of McMinnville, Oregon, is ongoing and is expected to be completed in the next two years.
The Collings Foundation has announced their return to touring starting January 17, 2020 in Deland, Florida. Their web site lists several Florida tour stops in January and February, with other locations listed starting in July. Their latest newsletter notes that they plan to visit over 100 cities across the US in the 2020 Wings of Freedom tour.
You can check the Collings Foundation’s touring schedule for additional stops later in the year here.
The Collings Foundation show tours include a Consolidated B-24J Liberator, Witchcraft, a B-25, and a TF-51D (P51) Mustang. The B-24 flight experience is 30 minutes and the B-25 flight experience is 25 minutes. The P-51 Mustang can be reserved for either a half or full hour of flight instruction. If you are considering a flight experience, check here for more information and pricing.
You can also check the B-17 tour schedules of other tour operators here.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020