A World War II-era B-17 bomber that crashed Wednesday at a Connecticut airport, killing seven people, made regular visits to the Borderland over the last ten years.
The plane, which belonged to the non-profit preservation group, stopped in Santa Teresa numerous times over the past decade — with the most recent visit occurring in April 2018 as part of a nationwide tour.
The seven dead were among 13 people onboard when the vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crashed at the end of a runway while trying to land at Bradley International Airport in Connecticut near Hartford, authorities said.
Pilot asked to return to the airport, audio indicates
The B-17 waited a few minutes for turbulence from a prior aircraft to clear before it was cleared for takeoff, according to FAA air traffic control audio recorded by the website LiveATC.net.
But shortly after takeoff, the pilot told air traffic control: “N93012 would like to return to the field.”
“What is the reason for coming back?” the controller asked.
“You got No. 4 engine. We’d like to return, and blow it out,” another pilot in the aircraft said.
A pilot said he needed to land immediately, and the control tower diverted other jets that were about to land, the recording indicates.
After the B-17 crashed at the end of a runway, a plume of black smoke billowed from the scene.
Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane hit the instrument landing system posts and veered to the right. It crossed a grassy area then a taxiway and ran into an airport de-icing facility.
Plane belonged to a nonprofit that restores aircraft
The plane belonged to the Collings Foundation, the airport’s Twitter account said.
A “Wings of Freedom Tour,” featuring the B-17 and other aircraft, was scheduled to take place through Thursday, the foundation said on its website.
Attendees can purchase various experiences aboard the featured aircraft, including flights, the website says.
The Collings Foundation said it’s “forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight,” the foundation said in a statement.
“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.”
The foundation is a 40-year-old educational nonprofit that organizes and supports “‘living history’ events and the preservation, exhibition and interaction of historical artifacts that help Americans learn more about their heritage,” according to its website.
It counts the Wings of Freedom Tour as a “major focus” of its endeavors, the site states.
While about 13,000 rolled off the assembly line, only a handful of the Flying Fortresses still take to the air, usually for air shows and special events. These are the famous workhorse bombers that helped the Allies win World War II.