In October the Nine-O-Nine, a totally restored Boeing B-17G bomber owned and run by the Collings Foundation, crashed with thirteen people on board. After landing tough and skidding into the de-icing tanks at the Bradley International Airport, all but the tail and port wing of the 74 year old WWII aircraft was damaged. Seven lives were lost in the accident, consisting of that of Pilot Ernest “Mac” McCauley, who was considered as one of the most knowledgeable B-17 pilots in the world.
While the National Transportation Security Board(NTSB)investigation is still ongoing and hasn’t made a last decision regarding what ultimately reduced the Nine-O-Nine, enough major upkeep concerns were uncovered while examining the wreckage that the Federal Air Travel Administration (FAA) has decided to rescind the Collings Foundation’s license to perform any more paid flights on their staying WWII aircraft. While numerous have spoken up in assistance of these “living history” flights, the FAA says they should be conducted in such a way that they don’t impede the safety of other air traffic.
With the huge majority of the B-17’s airframe gone, the NTSB investigation has actually focused on the four 1,200 horsepower Wright R-1820 “Cyclone” engines recuperated from the crash website. Investigators found that quickly attempted repair work to engine number 4, which is thought to have actually stopped working in-flight, were actually impeding regular operation:
Concerning engine 4, to avoid the magneto “P” leads from separating from the
magnetos, someone had actually tried to rig the magneto leads in location with safety wire.
Inspection and screening of engine 4 left magneto exposed the motion of the safety-wired lead caused grounding to the case, which rendered the magneto lead inoperative.
Even more, all of the trigger plugs in the number 3 and 4 engines were discovered to be fouled and had electrode gaps that were out of tolerance. From an examination of the aircraft’s maintenance records, it was likewise learned that an arcing and burned wire had actually been replaced without any investigative actions taken to find what triggered the failure to start with.
With fundamental upkeep jobs either not being carried out or a minimum of done improperly, the FAA has actually cast doubt on the culture of safety at the Collings Structure. The paper takes care not to directly accuse the Structure or any of its personnel with straight-out carelessness, but the implication appears clear.
The loss of Nine-O-Nine hit especially near to house for Hackaday. Just a month prior to the crash we had the opportunity to tour the aircraft, and came away with a newfound respect for not just those who designed and constructed the renowned bomber but the brave boys who flew it. Losing such an uncommon and traditionally considerable airplane and its team was already a tragedy, however to find that neglect might be to blame is truly untenable.