Tuesday, June 14, 2011


OSWEGO, Ill. -- A B-17 bomber that dates to World War II has crashed and burned in a cornfield outside Chicago.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory says the plane took off from Aurora Municipal Airport on Monday morning and crashed about 20 minutes later in Oswego.

Last year Jarred Rego and I took a ride on the flying museum... The B-17 "Liberty Belle". I have flown on several B-17s, and a B-24 and B-29. It was THE BEST plane and crew of them all. What's the story behind the Liberty Belle? On September 9, 1944 the 390th Bomb Group attacked a target in Dusseldorf, Germany and suffered its second largest single mission loss of the war. Over the target just prior to bomb release, one of the low squadron B-17s was hit in the Bomb bay by flak. The 1000 lb. bombs exploded and nine of the twelve aircraft in the squadron were instantly destroyed or knocked out of formation. Six of the nine went down over the target, one flew two hours on a single engine and landed at Paris, another "crippled plane" landed in Belgium and the other struggled back to its home base and landed long after the other thirty nine B-17s had returned from the mission. The one that came home was "Liberty Belle", she went on to complete 64 combat missions before being salvaged on February 18, 1945. The Liberty Foundation’s B-17G (SN 44-85734) has an interesting post-war history. Originally sold on June 25, 1947 as scrap to Esperado Mining Co. of Altus, OK, it sold again later that year to Pratt & Whitney for $2,700. Pratt & Whitney operated the B-17 from November 19, 1947 to 1967 as a heavily modified test bed for their P&W T-34 and T-64 turboprop engines. It became a “5-engine aircraft”, having the powerful prototype engine mounted on the nose! The aircraft was flown “single-engine”, with all four radial engines feathered during test flights. Following this life as a test platform, it was donated in the late 1960s to the Connecticut Aeronautical Historic Association in East Hartford. Unfortunately, it was heavily damaged on October 3, 1979 in a tornado, in which another aircraft was thrown onto the B-17’s mid-section. The wreck was stored in the New England Air Museum, CT from 1981 until 1987.


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