The crew of the B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber asked to make an immediate landing due to an engine problem just prior to crashing Wednesday morning, according to audio transmissions recorded by the website LiveATC.net.
Listen to the audio:
The communication between the crew of the B-17 and air traffic controllers provide some insight into the final moments of the flight, which ended in a fiery crash at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Three crew members and 10 passengers were aboard the World War II-era plane, which was owned by the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit based in Stow, Mass., that offers plane rides to the public as part of its “Wings of Freedom Tour.”
Just prior to the tragic crash, a pilot on the B-17 asked for permission to return to the airport.
“We’d like to return to the field,” he said.
“And what’s the reason for coming back?” an air traffic controller asked.
“Number 4 engine, we’d like to return and blow it out.”
Air traffic control then had to make sure a runway was clear for the plane to land.
“You can proceed to runway 6,” an air traffic controller said. “And you said you need an immediate landing?”
“When you get a chance, yeah,” replied the pilot on the B-17.
“I just want to make sure because we have jet traffic coming in,” the air traffic controller said. “Can you go or do you need to be on the ground right now?”
A pilot on the B-17 provided an inaudible answer, but apparently made it clear that they needed to land right away.
“You can proceed however necessary for runway 6,” an air traffic controller said.
Moments later, air traffic control asked for an update on how the B-17 was doing.
“Uh, how’s your progress on runway 6?” an air traffic controller asked.
“We’re getting there,” said the pilot.
But the B-17 apparently lost control when it touched down. Officials said the plane struck some stanchions, then veered to the right, and then crossed a grassy area and a taxiway before crashing into a maintenance building.
The plane burst into flames.
Immediately after the crash, an air traffic controller announced the airport was closed.
“Bradley Airport is closed for an aircraft, uh, incident.”
Air traffic controllers asked emergency responders to get to the crash site as soon as possible.
“Bradley tower to all responding vehicles, no matter where you are, proceed to the crash via the quickest way available.”