Nine-O-Nine Has Crashed


A few days ago, the Collings Foundation’s B-17G, “Nine-O-Nine” crashed while returning to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. Seven crew members and passengers died, while seven more people in the plane and on the ground were injured. The highly visible aircraft, part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, had departed with ten passengers and three crew members; it was attempting to return to the airport after a crew member mentioned a problem with an engine in a conversation with air traffic controllers.

Through local and national news outlets, horrific photos of the aftermath of the crash were published, but information about the accident, and the people involved, couldn’t come fast enough. A full briefing finally occurred almost twenty four hours after the seventy five year-old bomber went down in a deicing tank farm east of Bradley’s runway six.

Pilot Ernest McCauley and co-pilot Michael Foster were killed in the crash, but flight engineer Mitchell Melton survived. McCauley had flown with the Collings Foundation for twenty years, and had over 7,300 hours flying B-17s, Foster had spent five years with the organization. The aircraft was a common sight in the New England area, although it toured throughout the country as part of the Wings of Freedom tour.

Members of aviation communities in general, and especially the Warbird community, were saddened by the loss of the pilots and passengers, as well as the iconic Boeing strategic bomber. Social media lit up as people talked about their experiences and the lasting memories the crew members and the aircraft gave them.

Our group of writers and photographers sends our deepest sympathy to those who lost a friend, family member, or fellow volunteer. To those who were injured and survived the crash, we offer hope for a speedy and full recovery. We’ve reported in our journals on some of the great “living history” that the Collings Foundation presents through various events… and hope that they will continue fulfilling this goal going forward. We wish the Foundation’s members peace during this difficult time.

Understandably for many people, the remainder of the 2019 Wings of Freedom Tour has been cancelled.

Here are a few photos of “Nine-O-Nine” over the years, as some of us have seen her at air shows and during past Wings of Freedom Tour stops.

Lead photo by Joe Kates, additional photos by Bill Sarama, Scott Zeno, Howard German, Ken Middleton and Ken Kula.

Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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