A World War II-era B-17 bomber carrying 13 people crashed and burned at the Bradley International Airport in an aborted take-off attempt Wednesday, and a state official said at least seven people were killed.
The officials and witnesses said, “The four-engine, propeller-driven plane struggled to get into the air and slammed into a maintenance shed at Bradley International Airport as the pilots circled back for a landing.”
It had 10 passengers and three crew members, authorities said. The state official who gave the death toll was not authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Connecticut Public Safety Commissioner James Rovella said hours after the crash that some of those on board suffered severe burns and the victims are very difficult to identify.
The retired, civilian-registered plane was associated with the Collings Foundation, an educational group that brought its Wings of Freedom vintage aircraft display to the airport this week, officials said.
The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team to investigate the cause of the crash. The plane was a few minutes into the flight when pilots reported a problem and said it was not gaining altitude, officials said. It lost control upon touching down and struck the shed just before 10 am.
One person on the ground was injured, officials said. The airport -- New England's second-busiest -- was closed after the crash but reopened a single runway about 3 hours later.
Flight records from FlightAware shows the plane went down about five minutes after it took off. The data shows it had traveled about 8 miles (13 kilometers) and reached an altitude of 800 feet (244 meters).
Only a few of the roaring Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses are still airworthy. The planes, 74 feet (23 metre) long with a wingspan of 104 feet (32 metre), were used in daylight strategic bombing raids against Germany during World War II -- extremely risky missions that helped break the Nazis' industrial war machine.
The Collings Foundation said the same plane in Wednesday's accident also crashed in 1987 at an air show near Pittsburgh, injuring several people. Hit by a severe crosswind as it touched down, the bomber overshot a runway and plunged down a hillside. It was later repaired.
The B-17 was built in 1945, too late for combat in World War II, according to the foundation.
It served in a rescue squadron and a military air transport service before being subjected to the effects of three nuclear explosions during testing, the foundation said. It was later sold as scrap and eventually was restored. The foundation bought it in 1986.