Almost six months after a fatal plane crash killed seven people in Connecticut, the Federal Aviation Administration rescinded the Collings Foundation’s permission to carry passengers in historic planes, saying the Massachusetts-based organization “lacked a commitment to safety,” officials announced Wednesday.
On Oct. 2, a vintage World War II era B-17 bomber with 13 people aboard took off from Bradley International Airport. Just five minutes into the flight, the pilot reported “some type of problem" and decided to attempt an emergency landing at the airport. During touchdown, the plane lost control and burst into flames, killing seven people, including the pilot, copilot, and two Massachusetts men, and injuring the remaining six.
The Collings Foundation, based in Stow, Mass., is a non-profit educational foundation founded in 1979 that promotes “living history” experiences through aviation events, including flights on bombers that cost between $425 and $475 per passenger.
Along with a lack of compliance with proper training and safety requirements, officials found that two of the plane’s four engines lacked proper maintenance, FAA officials said in the decision.
“The discrepancies noted above indicate maintenance, or lack thereof, occurred in a manner contrary to maintaining aircraft in accordance with the General Maintenance Manual,” the decision said.
A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that the plane had flagged an engine problem shortly before taking flight.
Several records detailing inspections and maintenance on the B-17 aircraft “lack key information and, in some cases, indicate maintenance was either not performed at all or was performed in a manner contrary to the applicable requirements,” the decision said.
Without actively seeking comment, the FAA received over 1,500 comments urging the organization to allow the flights to continue, citing “historical and sentimental value” in keeping the planes in the air, the decision said. Other commenters urged the FAA not to renew the exemption based on safety concerns.
“The FAA is mindful that flight in these historic aircraft is meaningful to some members of the public; however, the FAA is required by statute to ensure that any exemption the FAA grants would be in the public interest,” the decision said. “Collings did not take seriously its safety management system program.”
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