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Author Topic: B-17 Forced Landing, Aurora Tower  (Read 42348 times)
Pchan
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« Reply #25 on: June 14, 2011, 11:54:39 PM »

There is now a full statement on their website:

Quote
Statement from Liberty Foundation Chief Pilot:

June 14, 2011 - First, let me start off by sincerely thanking everyone for the outpouring of support that we are receiving. I am sorry that I have not yet had the opportunity to return the many phone calls, text or e-mails that I am receiving offering to help. Again, thank you for all of the kind words that we are receiving and for incredible offers to help emotionally, financially and/or with the recovery process. I hope this statement will help fill in a few details that everyone is wondering about that led to the loss of our “Liberty Belle”.

Yesterday (June 13, 2011) morning, both our P-40 and B-17 were scheduled to fly from Aurora, Illinois to Indianapolis, Indiana. We were in Aurora for the weekend as a part of our scheduled tour. Over the course of the previous week, we completed a scheduled 25-hour inspection on the B-17 which was completed by Saturday. On Saturday, the weather stayed below the required ceiling to give any passenger flights, however the B-17 flew in the morning on a routine training proficiency flight, performing several patterns. Following the flight, other maintenance issues arose that required us to cancel our Sunday flying schedule for repairs. The maintenance performed has not been, in any way, associated to the chain of events that led to Monday’s fateful flight, but is being considered in the preliminary investigation. However, due to the media’s sensational (mis)reporting, there is a large amount of misinformation that continues to lead the news.

Here is what we do know… Flying in the left seat of the B-17 was Capt. John Hess. John has been flying our Liberty Belle since 2005 and one of our most experienced B-17 pilots. He is an active Delta Air Lines Captain with over 14,000 hours of flying experience and flys a variety of vintage WWII aircraft. In the right seat was Bud Sittic. While Bud is new to the Liberty Foundation this year, he is also incredibly experienced with over 14,000 hours of flying time in vintage and hi-performance aircraft. He is a retired Captain with Delta Air Lines.

The news misidentified the P-40 as flying chase during the accident. I was flying our P-40, however I had departed 20 minutes prior to the B-17’s takeoff on the short flight to Indianapolis to setup for the B-17’s arrival. The aircraft flying chase was a T-6 Texan flown by owner Cullen Underwood. Cullen is one of our rated B-17 Captains and an experienced aviator tagging along as a support ship.

The takeoff of both aircraft was uneventful and proceeded on-course southeast. Prior to exiting Aurora’s airport traffic area, the B-17 crew and passengers began investigating an acrid smell and started a turn back to the airport. Almost immediately thereafter, Cullen spotted flames coming from the left wing and reported over the radio that they were on fire.

As all pilots know, there are few emergency situations that are more critical than having an in-flight fire. While an in-flight fire is extremely rare, it can (and sometimes does) indiscriminately affect aircraft of any age or type. In-flight fires have led to the loss of not only aircraft, but often can result in catastrophic loss of life. It requires an immediate action on the flight crew, as the integrity of aircraft structure, systems and critical components are in question.

Directly below the B-17 was a farmer’s field and the decision was made to land immediately. Approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds from the radio report of the fire, the B-17 was down safely on the field. Within that 1:40 time frame, the crew shutdown and feathered the number 2 engine, activated the engine’s fire suppression system, lowered the landing gear and performed an on-speed landing. Bringing the B-17 to a quick stop, the crew and passengers quickly and safely exited the aircraft. Overhead in the T-6, Cullen professionally coordinated and directed the firefighting equipment which was dispatched by Aurora Tower to the landing location.

Unlike the sensational photos that you have all seen of the completely burned B-17 on the news, you will see from photos taken by our crew that our Liberty Belle was undamaged by the forced landing and at the time of landing, the wing fire damage was relatively small. The crew actually unloaded bags, then had the horrible task of watching the aircraft slowly burn while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. There were high hopes that the fire would be extinguished quickly and the damage would be repairable. Those hopes were diminished as the fire trucks deemed the field too soft to cross due to the area’s recent rainfall. So while standing by our burning B-17 and watching the fire trucks parked at the field’s edge, they sadly watched the wing fire spread to the aircraft’s fuel cells and of course, you all have seen the end result. There is no doubt that had the fire equipment been able to reach our aircraft, the fire would have been quickly extinguished and our Liberty Belle would have been repaired to continue her worthwhile mission.

Let me go on the record by thanking the flight crew for their professionalism. Their actions were nothing short of heroic and their quick thinking, actions and experience led to a “successful” outcome to this serious in-flight emergency. John and Bud (and Cullen) did a remarkable job under extreme circumstances and performed spectacularly. While the leading news stories have repeatedly reported the “crash” of our B-17, fact is they made a successful forced landing and the aircraft was ultimately consumed by fire. Airplanes are replaceable but people are not and while the aircraft’s loss is tragic, it was a successful result.

This leads me into discussing the exceptional safety record of the Boeing B-17 and to hopefully squash the naysayers who preach we should not be flying these types of aircraft. Since we first flew the “Liberty Belle” in December of 2004, we have flown over 20,000 passengers throughout the country and if you count our historic trip to Europe in 2008, worldwide. Of the other touring B-17s, some of which that have been touring for over 20 years, they have safely flown hundreds of thousands of people. The aircraft’s safety record is spectacular and I am certain the overall cause of our issue, which is under investigation, will not tarnish that safety record. In fact, as many of you know, other B-17 have suffered significant damage (although not as bad as ours!), only to be re-built to fly again. From a passenger carrying standpoint, I can think of few aircraft that offer the same level of safety as the 4-engine “Flying Fortress”. As mentioned earlier, in-flight fires are extremely rare and certainly could affect any powered aircraft under certain circumstances. I would put my children today in any of the other touring B-17s to go fly. I suggest to anyone that was thinking of doing so when a B-17 visits your area to do so without giving our loss any thought.

There is wild speculation going on as to the cause of our fire and the affect to other operators. Please let the investigation run its course and report the findings. The NTSB and FAA were quickly on the scene and we are working closely with them to aid in the investigation. As soon as we receive some additional information, we will release it via the website.

The ultimate question remains, where does the Liberty Foundation go from here? After the investigation and recovery, we will determine our options. We are still committed to the restoration and flying of World War II aircraft. Again, we appreciate the support and people offering to help get us back flying.

Please check back for updates. I will close by thanking everyone that made our tour so successful. From the first day of the B-17’s restoration, thank you for all of you who labored to get her flying over the initial restoration years and to everyone that has worked on her out on tour since. Thank you to the crewmembers, tour coordinators and volunteers who gave up weekends and countless hours to support her on the road. And finally, thank you to the passengers, donors and media patrons that flew aboard and everyone who supported our cause. Hopefully, this will not be the end of the story, but a new beginning.

Regards,
Ray Fowler
The Liberty Foundation, Chief Pilot
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pvt/ATC
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« Reply #26 on: June 15, 2011, 12:41:54 AM »

So are you suggesting that it would've been better to not have had emergency response? As a Private Pilot and  Air Traffic Controller with (>30,000 hrs), I believe this Controller responded appropriately. It a Controller's job to dispatch emergency equipment and personell ASAP. There were obviously other aircraft on the frequency and to suggest that she stay off the radio for 30 seconds to a minute could've resulted in another accident. This emergency did not occur in controlled airspace, but was broadcast on a controlled frequency. Aircraft in-flight cannot hold their positions and they certainly will NOT stop communicating. I absolutely agree to fly the plane first, then communicate. The reason there was emergency response was because of her persistance. This was not a "needless call", but a very necessary one.
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tpj
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« Reply #27 on: June 15, 2011, 04:21:07 AM »

So are you suggesting that it would've been better to not have had emergency response? As a Private Pilot and  Air Traffic Controller with (>30,000 hrs), I believe this Controller responded appropriately. It a Controller's job to dispatch emergency equipment and personell ASAP. There were obviously other aircraft on the frequency and to suggest that she stay off the radio for 30 seconds to a minute could've resulted in another accident. This emergency did not occur in controlled airspace, but was broadcast on a controlled frequency. Aircraft in-flight cannot hold their positions and they certainly will NOT stop communicating. I absolutely agree to fly the plane first, then communicate. The reason there was emergency response was because of her persistance. This was not a "needless call", but a very necessary one.

I respect your opinion, but wholeheartedly disagree.   There are nordo procedures for both ATC and pilots.  To suggest that a mere 30 seconds to a minute would cause another crash is ridiculous.  The weather is not a factor.  If you think that fully licensed, certificated pilots can't think on their own for that time period, use nordo procedures and "see and avoid" bad situations, then you obviously think that a private pilot's license is a joke.  The only thing the lady did was garbage up the radios, and hindering the handling of the IFE.   Was it really necessary that the emergency response get there 30 secs to a minute faster?  That would have had NO effect.  Besides that, the other plane or other planes in the area would have relayed the position of the B-17.  She knew that that aircraft was a formation and was not alone.  It most definitely was  a "needless call". 
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ogogog
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« Reply #28 on: June 15, 2011, 07:55:09 AM »

So are you suggesting that it would've been better to not have had emergency response? As a Private Pilot and  Air Traffic Controller with (>30,000 hrs), I believe this Controller responded appropriately. It a Controller's job to dispatch emergency equipment and personell ASAP. There were obviously other aircraft on the frequency and to suggest that she stay off the radio for 30 seconds to a minute could've resulted in another accident. This emergency did not occur in controlled airspace, but was broadcast on a controlled frequency. Aircraft in-flight cannot hold their positions and they certainly will NOT stop communicating. I absolutely agree to fly the plane first, then communicate. The reason there was emergency response was because of her persistance. This was not a "needless call", but a very necessary one.

I respect your opinion, but wholeheartedly disagree.   There are nordo procedures for both ATC and pilots.  To suggest that a mere 30 seconds to a minute would cause another crash is ridiculous.  The weather is not a factor.  If you think that fully licensed, certificated pilots can't think on their own for that time period, use nordo procedures and "see and avoid" bad situations, then you obviously think that a private pilot's license is a joke.  The only thing the lady did was garbage up the radios, and hindering the handling of the IFE.   Was it really necessary that the emergency response get there 30 secs to a minute faster?  That would have had NO effect.  Besides that, the other plane or other planes in the area would have relayed the position of the B-17.  She knew that that aircraft was a formation and was not alone.  It most definitely was  a "needless call". 

as a 30 year retired controller all i can say is that your clueless.
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derekjackson
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« Reply #29 on: June 15, 2011, 09:05:32 AM »

So thanks to that press release, we can now identify the chase plane as N299FM (which is shortened to 9FM in the ATC recording) from the FAA registry. Up until now, doing a search for "9FM" of course didn't bring up any likely hits.

Sad to hear the fire trucks couldn't race up and put the fire out before it was too late. As per the press release, I changed the title of this topic from "crash" to "forced landing".
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tpj
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« Reply #30 on: June 15, 2011, 03:33:01 PM »

So are you suggesting that it would've been better to not have had emergency response? As a Private Pilot and  Air Traffic Controller with (>30,000 hrs), I believe this Controller responded appropriately. It a Controller's job to dispatch emergency equipment and personell ASAP. There were obviously other aircraft on the frequency and to suggest that she stay off the radio for 30 seconds to a minute could've resulted in another accident. This emergency did not occur in controlled airspace, but was broadcast on a controlled frequency. Aircraft in-flight cannot hold their positions and they certainly will NOT stop communicating. I absolutely agree to fly the plane first, then communicate. The reason there was emergency response was because of her persistance. This was not a "needless call", but a very necessary one.

I respect your opinion, but wholeheartedly disagree.   There are nordo procedures for both ATC and pilots.  To suggest that a mere 30 seconds to a minute would cause another crash is ridiculous.  The weather is not a factor.  If you think that fully licensed, certificated pilots can't think on their own for that time period, use nordo procedures and "see and avoid" bad situations, then you obviously think that a private pilot's license is a joke.  The only thing the lady did was garbage up the radios, and hindering the handling of the IFE.   Was it really necessary that the emergency response get there 30 secs to a minute faster?  That would have had NO effect.  Besides that, the other plane or other planes in the area would have relayed the position of the B-17.  She knew that that aircraft was a formation and was not alone.  It most definitely was  a "needless call". 

as a 30 year retired controller all i can say is that your clueless.

Thanks for agreeing with me, ogogog!  Finally, somebody gets it. 
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NoMad
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« Reply #31 on: June 15, 2011, 06:58:37 PM »

As a pilot, I'm seriously annoyed at the tower operator.  Don't these people know ANYTHING?
Apparently they know a lot more than you do.

There is an EMERGENCY UNDER WAY, one pilot talking to another, and she keeps interrupting
And the tower controller is a integral part of any emergency on their channel in their airspace.  Do you think the fire is going to put itself out???  And no they were not talking to eachother.  He was talking to himself since the aircraft on fire was on a different channel.  She wasn't interrupting.  She was doing her job and sending fire trucks where they need go.


not only with her question but also handling other planes which can WAIT.
Wrong.  All radio traffic does not cease when there is an emergency.  The other aircraft in the sky can not just pull over and 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.
Wrong.  Further details not needed, see above.

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.
And apparently every time you spout off on this forum, it drowns out intelligence.  She's doing her job, and doing it well.  And the pilot did not let ATC know and her questions were just as important as everyone else's traffic.

There is nothing that she needs to know that she won't hear if she listens.
Nobody was saying that information which was needed immediately.  So she did her job.  Sounds like you're the one that needs to do more listening and less talking.

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!"
Well I hope you don't have an emergency because you will sorely disappointed when firetrucks are waiting for you because the controllers did their job.
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« Reply #32 on: June 17, 2011, 01:52:12 PM »

   Was it really necessary that the emergency response get there 30 secs to a minute faster?  That would have had NO effect.  

Yes, it WAS necessary! As a Firefighter  myself, 30seconds to a minute can mean the difference between life and death. AFTER the fact in this case, obviously it didn't matter, but if the outcome of the 'emergency landing' had been different, at least emergency responders would have been 30-60 seconds closer to assisting anyone in trouble. If there had been lives to save, the FF's would have been in there, on foot, doing what they could to get everyone out and in that case every second counts, as depending on fire load, fire can double in size every minute. It also allowed command to call for a box-alarm trying to get as many surrounding departments brush trucks out to the scene to get water on the fire as soon as possible. Fire engines are not made to off-road with their weight, 2 wheel (rear-wheel) drive and tires.  They would have gotten stuck within only a few feet of entering the field.
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« Reply #33 on: June 17, 2011, 07:08:02 PM »

I agree with the above.  I would have quoted and shot down that dude's whole post too if I noticed it the other day.  Nothing in his rambling is correct either.  And I'm also a firefighter.
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« Reply #34 on: June 18, 2011, 07:58:11 AM »

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!"
As a pilot I can say you don't have a clue what you're talking about.  The controller was doing her job.  In essence, she was giving complete priority to an unknown aircraft in suspected distress.  Was she just supposed to wait there silently and just ignore everyone else on frequency until the aircraft got around to making a proper distress call?  If the pilots were too busy to talk to her then they didn't have to, but that doesn't mean that she isn't entitled to query an unidentified aircraft and offer assistance, especially since it was on her local frequency and not 121.5. 

This is what happens when you let sexism interfere with rational thought.

--
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ogogog
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« Reply #35 on: June 18, 2011, 09:15:18 AM »


Thanks for agreeing with me, ogogog!  Finally, somebody gets it. 
[/quote]

no dude you got it wrong iam not agreeing with you at all, i was backing the controller 1000% ,your the one that is cluess about ATC procedured.
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RJ
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« Reply #36 on: June 18, 2011, 09:15:45 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.

The AT -6 belongs to my nephew who we hear on the radio advising the pilot of the fire.
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xinit
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« Reply #37 on: June 18, 2011, 09:58:35 AM »

Ironically, the original Liberty Belle, tail # 42-30096, had an accidental on-board fire and was destroyed in the resultant crash.

Small correction: That was a different Liberty Belle. The original flew in the 390th, tail number 42-97849

Chuck
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rapxxiitor
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« Reply #38 on: June 18, 2011, 05:50:45 PM »

A question for the firefighters.
   Four or five years ago, as I as leaving work, I noticed a S/E R/G aircraft that appeared to be taking off from Salinas,Ca airport, which is across the highway from my work. After a few seconds, it became obvious he was trying to LAND, but with the left gear at a 45 degree angle he couldn't. I found a vantage point and watched him make low passes trying to get the gear down. It was getting dark, and the pilot made the decision to land gear up.
    There were 3 fire trucks and an ambulance standing by at the terminal. The distance between them and runway 26 is approx. 1/8 mile. The pilot landed and and came to a halt. The emergency equipment started moving AFTER the plane stopped. I know George Kennedy chasing a 747 is pretty extreme, but I would think the equipment could have gotten a better jump in case there was a problem. Is this SOP for all fire departments, or just a local deal?
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NoMad
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« Reply #39 on: June 19, 2011, 08:27:50 PM »

Is this SOP for all fire departments, or just a local deal?

Well first things first, there is no such thing is an SOP for all departments.  There is no such thing.  Everyone makes their own SOP based on their own individual needs, desires, equipment, and manpower.

I obviously don't know the SOP of the department you were seeing.  However I can tell you it is rather unusual to be staging at a ramp rather than on the taxiways.  It is almost always setup such that emergency vehicles are staged on the taxiways in place where they won't be hit by an out of control aircraft.  For example, the taxiway at the approach end of the runway since that will put them BEHIND the aircraft's touchdown location and it won't go skidding into them.  Equipment staged further down runway would be held further away so they don't become part of the crash.
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« Reply #40 on: August 22, 2011, 07:37:16 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!"

What the hell are you talking about seriously? How could she possibly know that there was communication between aircraft as opposed to say a right seater or another crew member transmitting on an open mic. And much more importantly wha the hell does it even matter?? They were literally 3 seconds into the incident, the audio wasn't very clean and besides whats the very first rule that every pilot learns during the very first emergency brief/lesson they ever receive? Heres a hint, communicate is quite a way down the list. And Besides after you hear the words your on fire, get it on the ground what else do you really need to talk about?

And what about all the other aircraft that she is responsible for, what do you think will happen if she just decides to stop talking out of respect for the two pilots. Thats a phenomenal way to make one problem into a many possibly fatal ones.

In situations like these the rule is simple and it generally rests with the pilots. follow all tower commands, ackowledge the tower as quickly and clearly as possible and then get hell off the radio and/or clear the airspace until your help is requested or you feel you are able to assist, in which case you would speak up.
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