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Local Aviation Enthusiasts React to B17 Crash

The WWII bomber involved in deadly Connecticut crash visited Purdue this summer. Local aviation enthusiasts say they would welcome the "Wings of Freedom" tour back with open arms despite Wednesday's deadly crash.

Posted: Oct 3, 2019 6:31 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2019 6:35 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI)-The B-17 World War two bomber involved in a deadly Connecticut crash has been to the Purdue airport several times.
Wednesday's crash has some wondering what will happen to future living history museums.

Local Aviation enthusiast say while the tragic crash hits home, they believe living history museums like the "Wings of Freedom" tour serve a valuable purpose.

"They go through the air pretty smoothly because they are so big and that's one thing that really impresses you while you are up there flying around is just how stable and massive these things really are," said David Berkey the Experimental Aircraft Association President.

Berkey has been a passenger on the B-17 that crashed in Connecticut several times. He says many people from the greater Lafayette area have ridden on the plane themselves and may not have realized it.

“We’ve had this particular B17 here three times already,” added Berkey. “A lot of local folk around here have flown on the airplane and bought rides on it."

He says the crash hit close to home since he's worked with the Collings Foundation every time they have brought their living history museum to the Purdue Airport.

"It was a punch right in the gut let me tell you," added Berkey.

He says he doesn't think this crash will change people's attitudes towards flying and riding in historic planes.

"To be able to see these planes in action and actually get an opportunity to fly on one of these things is really a rare treat,” said Berkey. “I think the passion will still be there."

Especially since so much maintenance goes into making sure they are safe.

"When you understand the unbelievable maintenance schedule that these airplanes go through it really is a very safe aircraft for the most part," stated Berkey.

At this time there is no word on what caused the crash of the B-17. The Collings Foundation released this statement saying “Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that flight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley. 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. “

Berkey says the aviation community of Greater Lafayette will welcome back the Collings Foundation with open arms.

"By all means, we would welcome them back," added Berkey. "They have some terrific aircraft." 

The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the crash.
The Purdue airport also released a statement in regards to the crash in it the airport said, “On behalf of the staff of the Purdue University Airport, we offer our deepest condolences and sympathies to everyone impacted by yesterday’s loss of the Collings Foundation’s B-17, the Nine-O-Nine, at the Bradley International Airport.

The aircraft involved has been a frequent visitor to the Purdue University Airport, included in the Wings of Freedom tour. Spending a week every summer with the volunteers and staff of the Collings Foundation, close professional friendships have developed. We share a common enthusiasm and appreciation of aviation and historic aircraft.

The news of the accident was heartbreaking and very personal for all of us. Understanding that this accident occurred at another airport, any thoughts or ideas on the cause of this accident would be pure speculation and counterproductive to the investigation.”

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