WWII plane in Connecticut crash a regular in Wings of Freedom tours visiting Porter County Chicago

WWII plane in Connecticut crash a regular in Wings of Freedom tours visiting Porter County Chicago When a B 17 World War II era bomber crashed Wednesday at an airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, an airport official in Porter County recalled that the plane never had any mechanical problems during visits to the Porter Regional Airport. The B 17 bomber, also known as the Flying Fortress, was the first aircraft to tour Porter Regional Airport with the Collings Foundation in the late 1980s, according to Kyle Kuebler, the airports director. The plane was last in Porter County in early August. For the better part of 30 years, the Collings Foundations Wings of Freedom tour has stopped by the airport in late July or early August, drawing upwards of 1,000 people to see the B 17 and other planes from that era, and offering flights to World War II veterans. Kuebler said Wednesday that he was saddened by the news that a B 17 carrying 13 people crashed and burned at the Connecticut airport in an aborted takeoff attempt. Officials said at least five people were killed. 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, officials and witnesses said. One person on the ground also was injured. When you look at the aviation history, that aircraft has throughout the years carried veterans around the country, Kuebler said, adding the plane never had any mechanical difficulties in its many flights here. Thats really what makes the tour special to people, because you see the veterans come here and you see the roller coaster of emotions, from pride to sadness, as they recall their time in the war, he continued. The foundation has a local connection, as founder Bob Collings is a 1956 graduate of Valparaiso High School. A representative with the Collings Foundation said none of the foundations officials were on the plane at the time of the crash. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were on that fight and we will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley, the foundation said in a prepared statement. The Collings Foundation flight team is fully cooperating with officials to determine the cause of the crash of the B 17 Flying Fortress and will comment further when details become known. The number of World War II veterans is dwindling by the day, Kuebler said, yet the tour continues to be a huge draw every summer. They still come out to see those airplanes every year they come here, he said. Six years ago, according to a story in the Post Tribune archives, three local veterans went on a B 17 flight during Wings of Freedom. One of them, Harold Chubbs, then 89 and from Crown Point, was a flight engineer on the B 17 with the U.S. Army Corps during the war, spending between 6½ and 12 hours on the plane, often with oxygen. He was stationed in Italy, and his job on the B 17 was to make sure everything was in place before it landed. That was quite a flight, he said then, after the plane landed at the airport after flying over Lake Michigan. It made a good landing. And thats a good thing – no one was shooting at me. The 20 minute flight, in late July 2013, was a far cry from what the veterans experienced while airborne during wartime. An overhead spot in the planes midsection was wide open to a partly sunny sky. At one point, Chubbs and the other veterans gathered at a window together and looked out, the weapon at the porthole long silent. Everything looked peaceful today, Chubbs said then, adding while he was in the war, he had to observe traffic and rivers. As soon as we got on land, we got shot at. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post Tribune.

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