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Author Topic: B-17 Forced Landing, Aurora Tower  (Read 42279 times)
derekjackson
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« on: June 13, 2011, 01:28:44 PM »

Recording from Aurora Tower, 1430Z (edited) - fire on board B-17 Flying Fortress "Liberty Belle", registry N390TH, as previously reported in the Listeners Forum. Thankfully, all on board have survived!

* N390TH_fire.mp3 (1324.55 KB - downloaded 4661 times.)
« Last Edit: June 15, 2011, 08:59:04 AM by derekjackson » Logged
VampyreGTX
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2011, 01:45:08 PM »

You beat me to the edit! Scary when you hear the P-40 they were in formation with yelling to the B-17, 'You're on fire!', over and over and then 'put her on the ground!'  Seeing the pictures, you can see extensive fire damage to the elevator/tail area behind the right engines showing how significant the engine fire was. The tail damage is far enough away from the main body of the post-crash fire that it's clear it was from the engine fire. Sad day for heritage aircraft. Such a beautiful aircraft. Thankfully, only 1 minor injury it sounds like.

A local paper did report that the Liberty Belle did have engine problems on 6/6 shortly after arrival that caused flights that day to be canceled. Wonder if it was the same engine(s) involved?
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NTHRIWZ
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2011, 02:03:32 PM »

This is the piece of history we all lost today.  The Liberty Belle was a gorgeous aircraft and I had unfettered access to it for 2 days to shoot this VR tour.  Make sure you look at all 9 panoramas.  http://lookinanydirection.com/panoramas/liberty_belle

RIP Liberty Belle
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 02:11:12 PM by NTHRIWZ » Logged
derekjackson
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2011, 02:37:06 PM »

You beat me to the edit! Scary when you hear the P-40 they were in formation with yelling to the B-17, 'You're on fire!', over and over and then 'put her on the ground!'  Seeing the pictures, you can see extensive fire damage to the elevator/tail area behind the right engines showing how significant the engine fire was. The tail damage is far enough away from the main body of the post-crash fire that it's clear it was from the engine fire. Sad day for heritage aircraft. Such a beautiful aircraft. Thankfully, only 1 minor injury it sounds like.

A local paper did report that the Liberty Belle did have engine problems on 6/6 shortly after arrival that caused flights that day to be canceled. Wonder if it was the same engine(s) involved?

Sorry about beating you to the edit ! I didn't realize that a P40 was in formation with the B-17, makes sense now why they would be in a position to report the fire. I wonder if the B-17 even heard them because the P-40 was using the tower frequency but it seemed earlier on that the B-17 had switched frequencies.

And NTHRIWZ, excellent work on the panorama!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 02:40:43 PM by derekjackson » Logged
VampyreGTX
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2011, 02:37:32 PM »

Check out this picture! As fire crews arrived on the scene. Shows the pilot made a PERFECT off airport emergency landing in the field. The left inboard engine appears to be the one that had an issue as you can see the pilot had feathered it. So sad...

http://dailyherald.com/article/20110613/news/706139928/photos/
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VampyreGTX
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2011, 02:39:50 PM »

Sorry about beating you to the edit ! I didn't realize that a P40 was in formation with the B-17, makes sense now why they would be in a position to report the fire. I wonder if the B-17 even heard them because the P-40 was using the tower frequency but it seemed earlier on that the B-17 had switched frequencies.

No worries! Was working and editing at the same time. I figured it was 'in formation' as when they clear Liberty Belle for takeoff, they use the callsign 'N390TH FLIGHT' indicating a formation takeoff and flight.
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VampyreGTX
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2011, 04:17:48 PM »

Correcting myself, looks like it wasn't the P-40 escorting the Liberty Belle, but a plane from the local Lima Lima aerobatic team per local news reports.
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NTHRIWZ
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2011, 05:06:49 PM »

He did a great soft-field landing and stopped before the tree line but without immediate firefighter support, because it was an off-field landing, the Liberty Belle was doomed by the time the firefighters arrived

Thanks derekjackson.  Did you look at all 9 of the panoramas in the tour?  Without a doubt I'm the only person to shoot a panorama in a Sperry ball turret.  That panorama gives you an inkling of what it was like for ball turret gunners laying on their back, sans parachute because there wasn't enough room to see over it if it was clipped on to the harness, looking between their legs at fighters coming up to shoot them down.  Although it doesn't seem possible the research I did after that shoot says that the ball turret gunner was in the safest position from attacking fighters in the aircraft.  Of course if there was a hydraulic failure and they couldn't get the gear down and couldn't rotate the ball turret he wouldn't survive the landing, so it wasn't all roses.

The tail gunner's area was so narrow that my shoulders brushed up against the sides of the tail section when I sat in that seat.  And there was nothing between the tail gunner and attacking fighters, or flak, but a thin piece of aluminum.  Certainly not a confidence builder.

The bombardier and navigator's positions in the nose were access through a relatively tight tunnel/crawl space that I'm sure would've been impossible to get through if the plane were out of control on the way down.  There is a hatch just behind the front bulkhead but it's right beside #2.  It would've been better than nothing but dicey at best if the engine weren't feathered.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2011, 05:29:40 PM by NTHRIWZ » Logged
derekjackson
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2011, 05:41:32 PM »

Yup, I saw all of them. I'm not sure about the ball turret being the safest place either, as I think of the movie "Memphis Belle". No room for a parachute but they did have a "safety strap" and I'm not sure on how effective it was.

I saw a post on airliners.net about this incident where someone wrote: "The Old Girl still has it! Rugged character brings yet another crew back safely." I thought that was very appropriate.
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SoloSP
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2011, 06:56:50 PM »

 Although it doesn't seem possible the research I did after that shoot says that the ball turret gunner was in the safest position from attacking fighters in the aircraft.

This is true for two reasons.

First, he is pretty much surrounded by armor plate (the armor behind him was a counterweight for the guns, and they had to use a lot of steel to hold armor and guns together while being rotated and tumbled around ).  Something like one-tenth of the steel in the whole plane was in the ball turret, its support and operating mechanism.

Second, the only direction to hit the turret directly was from the sides or coming up underneath, due to the ballistic path of projectiles.  By the time anything from front, rear or top hit him, it had gone through other parts of the plane and lost some of its energy, making it less likely to go through the steel
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SoloSP
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2011, 07:05:48 PM »

As a pilot, I'm seriously annoyed at the tower operator.  Don't these people know ANYTHING?

There is an EMERGENCY UNDER WAY, one pilot talking to another, and she keeps interrupting, not only with her question but also handling other planes which can WAIT.

When the pilot has a chance, he will let ATC know what's going on, but until then ATC SHOULD STAY OFF THE AIR and let the pilots sort it out.  The radio on the ground is more powerful and has a much better antenna, and every time she spouts off that radio drowns out the IMPORTANT traffic.  There is nothing that she needs to know that she won't hear if she listens.

If I ever have a problem like this, all I want to hear from ATC is "There is an emergency, all aircraft hold short and stay off the radio!"
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montanagal
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2011, 07:55:33 PM »


  This makes me sick to my stomach to know that we lost this beautiful plane.
Am I not mistaken that this plane actually saw combat during WWII?

   So damn sad.
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derekjackson
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« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2011, 08:01:33 PM »


  This makes me sick to my stomach to know that we lost this beautiful plane.
Am I not mistaken that this plane actually saw combat during WWII?

   So damn sad.

According to wikipedia (which can be wrong) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Belle_%28B-17_Flying_Fortress%29

this plane never saw combat as it was built too late but was named after an actual Liberty Belle that was lost in 1943.
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joeyb747
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« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2011, 08:39:54 PM »

 cry cry cry cry...at least no one was seriously hurt...
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« Reply #14 on: June 13, 2011, 09:07:30 PM »

My heart sank when I saw the raw stream on ABC today, now hearing the FIRE! FIRE! Put Her Down! ...  I guess It's a miracle the crew walked away. Who ever was at the controls is a hero for getting on the ground with no loss of life.  My heart goes out to Don and his crew. Liberty Bell was beautiful. She visited Stratford Connecticut at Sikorsky Memorial last year and my crew has a blast going through her and even a few of them took a ride. Tragic loss to the warbird community.  sad  This is the exact reason our Corsair will be relegated to the hanger as a static aircraft.  

Andrew King
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Sikorsky Memorial FG1-D Corsair Restoration
www.sikorskymemorialcorsair.org
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 12:52:57 AM by CorsairFas217 » Logged
Hollis
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« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2011, 09:51:30 PM »

Ironically, the original Liberty Belle, tail # 42-30096, had an accidental on-board fire and was destroyed in the resultant crash.
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VampyreGTX
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2011, 10:23:09 PM »

As a pilot, I'm seriously annoyed at the tower operator.  Don't these people know ANYTHING?

There is an EMERGENCY UNDER WAY, one pilot talking to another, and she keeps interrupting, not only with her question but also handling other planes which can WAIT.


Actually, I feel she handled the incident appropriately. Liberty Belle was no longer on tower frequency, however, the Lima Lima pilot still was (even though 'Flight' was given frequency change approved.) That's why they kept repeating 'You're on fire' over and over with no acknowledgement from Liberty Belle.

The ATC controller was trying to figure out who was on fire so she could get emergency equipment rolling to the airport or off-field as soon as possible. She knew the B-17 wasn't on the frequency and with the calls to 'put her on the ground', she knew someone was making an off airport emergency landing and was trying to ascertain who and where.

As the incident was happening off airport, it was ATC's responsibility to keep the airport operating and concurrently notify emergency services of an issue off airport.  That's just my opinion though.
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jtramo
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« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2011, 11:13:44 PM »

Hard to monday morning qb but less is more from atc in this situation. (She wasnt too bad though) "Clear of class d frequency change approved" isnt the same as "over to departure" which guarantees they are off frequency.  I'll bet they were both on and the 17 heard very loud and clear but was super super busy trying to run fire procedures. Good job on the t6 for talking them down even without reply. Great job on the 17 crew for getting it down safely ASAP.
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NTHRIWZ
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« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2011, 11:51:54 PM »

derekjackson — Great.  I wasn't trying to be pushy but amazingly some people are totally blind to the big honking yellow "more panoramas" flag (I still can't figure that out) and don't get past the first one.  This is the best record we have of the Liberty Belle and I wanted to make sure everyone here saw it because they'll appreciate it more than normal people who just aren't nuts about planes.

SoloSP — I know about the armor plating but when you stick your head inside of a 3' sphere to set up a camera you see how very, very small it is and the small windows on the sides weren't hardened like the porthole he sighted through between his feet was so the engineers may tell you it's safe but your brain says otherwise.  Of course it was a LOT safer then the tail or waist gunners' positions because they had bupkis between them and the enemy.

I spoke with a flight engineer/top turret gunner some time back and he also said the BT was the safest position.  He did say that one of the BT gunners he flew with was so small he was able to take his chute with him if he clipped it on one side and pushed it off to that side so he could see what he was doing.

The thing that really amazed me was when I asked where they stowed their chutes and he said they just tossed them wherever vs. having them stowed so you'd KNOW where it was if you needed it and the plane was out of control.  He was very cavalier about it.  As a skydiver with thousands of jumps and 37 reserve rides, I can't imagine me ever doing that.  Ever.

derekjackson — My interview with the ground crew when I shot this confirms Wikipedia's article that this Liberty Belle never saw combat (that article parrots the LB site on that detail).
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Flyingnut
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« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2011, 07:30:39 AM »

Some video footage I saw showed a yellow AT-6 with the B-17.  That would not be a Lima Lima aircraft because they fly T-34s.
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Marty
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« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2011, 08:47:28 AM »

Now, only 12 remain in the US. Looks like a fuel leakage issue.

"Mike Baker, of Montgomery, was at the Aurora airport on Saturday and says the plane was grounded because of a fuel leak in the same engine that burned Monday. “One of the guys who travels with the plane said it was leaking gasoline, and you could smell it was gasoline,” Baker said."
http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2011/06/13/small-plane-crashes-in-oswego/

In flight image showing small fire, well behind engine nacelle:
http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20110613/news/706139915/photos/EP13/

Immediate after landing image:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/photo/2011-06/62341960.jpg

I know there's a lot to go wrong with a 65 year old machine that is used as designed. I am amazed though, that as with KeeBird, there apparently there weren't a few big ABC extinguishers stowed inside. Not the little one-hand ones but the big industrial ones. While something like this, with apparent fuel leaking inside the wing, is not the same as that B-29, still, it may have bought a few minutes.

Let's hope the other Warbird owners inspect their fuel lines this week. Ground 'em if you have to, but do it - and make sure you have enough big, new extinguishers aboard.

MRK
« Last Edit: June 14, 2011, 09:01:19 AM by emarkay » Logged
mh53eflyguy
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« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2011, 01:55:00 PM »

As a pilot, I'm seriously annoyed at the tower operator.  Don't these people know ANYTHING?

There is an EMERGENCY UNDER WAY, one pilot talking to another, and she keeps interrupting, not only with her question but also handling other planes which can WAIT.

When the pilot has a chance, he will let ATC know what's going on, but until then ATC SHOULD STAY OFF THE AIR and let the pilots sort it out.  The radio on the ground is more powerful and has a much better antenna, and every time she spouts off that radio drowns out the IMPORTANT traffic.  There is nothing that she needs to know that she won't hear if she listens.

If I ever have a problem like this, all I want to hear from ATC is "There is an emergency, all aircraft hold short and stay off the radio!"

I had to interject.  Believe it or not, ATC has to ask those questions.  Usually it "SOB, Fuel State, state intentions, and location".  To some degree, that is what she was doing.  All that being said, it still goes back to Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.  No one declared an emergency (on the audio) and there was no reason to cease other operations with tower.  Besides all of this, If you are unable to answer them, it is the pilot's responsibility to stay "STAND BY". 
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joeyb747
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« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2011, 05:46:45 PM »

Vid of post-crash fire:

http://xfinity.comcast.net/video/crew-survives-crash-of-bomber/1999570948/Comcast/2001111329/
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« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2011, 07:48:33 PM »

Some video footage I saw showed a yellow AT-6 with the B-17.  That would not be a Lima Lima aircraft because they fly T-34s.

Correct, seeing the video it's not Lima Lima. Once again the news just ran with that as I guess one of the residents identified it as such. I've correct my story as well to indicate it was a T6 and not a Lima Lima aircraft.
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tpj
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« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2011, 09:42:58 PM »

As a pilot, I'm seriously annoyed at the tower operator.  Don't these people know ANYTHING?

There is an EMERGENCY UNDER WAY, one pilot talking to another, and she keeps interrupting, not only with her question but also handling other planes which can WAIT.

When the pilot has a chance, he will let ATC know what's going on, but until then ATC SHOULD STAY OFF THE AIR and let the pilots sort it out.  The radio on the ground is more powerful and has a much better antenna, and every time she spouts off that radio drowns out the IMPORTANT traffic.  There is nothing that she needs to know that she won't hear if she listens.

If I ever have a problem like this, all I want to hear from ATC is "There is an emergency, all aircraft hold short and stay off the radio!"

I had to interject.  Believe it or not, ATC has to ask those questions.  Usually it "SOB, Fuel State, state intentions, and location".  To some degree, that is what she was doing.  All that being said, it still goes back to Aviate, Navigate, Communicate.  No one declared an emergency (on the audio) and there was no reason to cease other operations with tower.  Besides all of this, If you are unable to answer them, it is the pilot's responsibility to stay "STAND BY". 

I agree with SoloSP, I'm a professional pilot (> 12,000 hrs) as well and I agree that the lady ATC controller should have stayed off the radio after the second call with no response.   I don't care that it's her job to get that information.  From the tone, volume, inflection and the words used it is extremely OBVIOUS that she should have known a MAJOR incident was occurring.  Her blocking of the radios and stepping over and or causing the other pilots to step on the radio transmissions did NOT help matters at all.  After two calls from her, she should have caught a clue that there were much more pressing matters to attend to than anybody responding to her. 

All pilots, and ATC personnel should know if someone doesn't answer your radio calls, either they can't hear you or they are fighting and struggling to deal with an IFE.  Anybody with common sense would know that those two pilots had their hands full and the last thing they want to do is waste precious seconds on answering a needless call from ATC.  She was not controlling LAX or ORD.  She could have said for everyone to hold their positions and keep the frequency clear for 30 secs to a minute to let the other planes deal with their crisis.   

She needs to go back to remedial ATC training.  It's people like her that cause accidents at small controlled airfields.  It really upsets me when I see examples like this where ATC is contributing to the problem rather than helping. 
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