B-17 Down: Not Many Left

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When a link to that video of the Liberty Foundation's B-17 blazing away in a field near Aurora, Illinois arrived yesterday, I immediately suffered that sinking feeling that all of us have when seeing a crash that could involve loss of life. Happily, that wasn't the case. But my relief was short-lived when I realized this accident may revive a debate that waxes and wanes: Should we really be flying these historical treasures or should they hang in museums for posterity?

Mark Jarrett

Mark Jarrett

My answer is an unconditional yes, we should fly them. Or I should say the people who own them should fly them, if that's their wont. I didn't always feel that way. Up until a few years ago, like other people I've talked to, I was a waffler on the subject. Yes, it's good for people to see and hear these airplanes in action, but they really are irreplaceable treasures, especially the B-17, of which only about a dozen are in airworthy condition.

What changed my mind was watching the Collings Foundation's B-17 and B-24 arrive at Venice a few years ago on one of their yearly tours. They came as a two-flight and the effect that had on the bystanders clinging to the airport fence was electrifying. It was possible to look up and imagine what a 1000-bomber raid must have sounded like, a spectacle never to be repeated. When they taxied in, brakes squealing and engines farting, you could, without much effort, place yourself at one of the Eighth Air Force's East Anglian hardstands in 1943. You don't get the same thrill at the Air and Space Museum.

The tradeoff is the risk and it's not trivial. These airplanes were never intended to remain in service this long and when they were in service, they were attended by all the considerable care the U.S. military could muster. By mid-World War II, the parts supply chain alone was astonishing. But no more. The owners of these airplanes have to be resourceful, persistent and clever to keep them airworthy and the cost can be staggering. The payoff is that people can see and hear them fly and, in the case of the Collings airplanes, actually ride in them.

Mark Jarrett

Mark Jarrett

Unfortunately, we will lose one from time to time and that's the risk that the owners who fly them and the people who ride in them have to understand. No one should sugar coat this. Like everything else in aviation, it just goes with the territory. I don't buy the argument that the owners and associations who operate these airplanes somehow have a higher duty to posterity to preserve them and the rest of us have a vote in that. We don't.

I can only hope that the operators of these airplanes take the appropriate precautions, but that's up to them, not me. There are plenty of worthy examples safely tucked into museums and as long as there are, we're not in danger of losing the last extant airplane of any of these types. It's sad to lose one, that's for sure, but it would be far sadder still to never see one fly again.

P.M. Wednesday addition: UK reader Mark Jarrett kindly sent me these photos of Eighth Air Force base sites near his home in East Anglia.

Comments (57)

I view vintage airplanes much the same as historic, or collectors cars. What's the point of having them if they're never flown/driven? I know a guy in Oregon that bought, brand new, 2 Ferrari 328's. Last I heard they both still had less than 1000 miles on them. I really just don't get that.

There's enough non-airworthy B-17's that museaums can display. The ones that can be flown should be for as long they can remain in servicable condition.

Posted by: Andrew Upson | June 15, 2011 1:42 AM    Report this comment

I fly a Harvard Mk IV, P-51 and a C-47; how else is a future generation to learn about the past without the sound, smell, the rumble of these old birds?

Posted by: John Hyle | June 15, 2011 6:00 AM    Report this comment

We do have a vote. I voted by purchasing a ride on the Collings Foundation B-17 for my son and I.

Posted by: Jerry McFerron | June 15, 2011 6:51 AM    Report this comment

I absolutely agree with Paul. Where possible, all vintage aircraft, cars, motorcycles, trucks, etc should be actually used and/or demonstrated. I have been fortunate to see Classic Bike racing on the Isle of Man (UK), all kinds of cars and bikes raced at Goodwood Festival of Speed (UK) and also had one of the most fabulous weekends ever at Warbirds over Wanaka (NZ). The sight, sounds, and smells add a totally new dimension to the experience and it brings it home to you just how brave those people were. Also, on a more serious note, flying the Warbirds is the best salute one can give to the brave souls who sacrificed their lives in war - on both sides. To see the emotion in the Veterans when a Warbird arrives at an airfield is enough to soften the hardest heart. "Keep them flying".

Posted by: Martin West | June 15, 2011 7:08 AM    Report this comment

There are many examples of these airplanes on static display in museums. I think that the public loves to see and hear these old airplanes flying. We were blessed, a few weeks ago, with a visit from FIFI, the CAF's B-29. Thousands came out to see and hear it fly, as well as to take tours. The volunteers who flew it in and maintained it were very generous with their time and answered many questions. Many people came away from this experience with a new appreciation of what the young men who flew these aircraft in war contributed to our country! Several years ago, I brought my daughter with me to see the Collings Foundation's B-24. There were many older gentlemen waiting on line to tour the airplane with us, wearing their squadron caps...several had tears in their eyes as they recounted their wartime experiences. This left a lasting impression with my daughter and myself!

Posted by: Steve Tobias | June 15, 2011 8:00 AM    Report this comment

It's a pity that the Collins B-17 had to be destroyed, but as Paul says, that's a risk we ALL take every time we slip the surly bounds of Earth to do this exciting thing we call "flying"!!

I personally have flown a AT-6 and rode in the Tri-Motor, DC-3, and the great P-51. These are treasures that are not intended to be in museums, but to show this generation that the determination and bravery of the past generation who flew these mighty machines.

"KEEP 'EM FLYING!!"

Posted by: R. Doe | June 15, 2011 8:18 AM    Report this comment

I'm more impressed that private people can keep such crates flying some 70 years after they were made. That's the real story. Risks? Of course the owners know the risks.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | June 15, 2011 8:25 AM    Report this comment

It's not truly an either/or decision. If you look at the historic car, musical instrument, or whatever field, you will see the same debate over repair-and-use vs conservation. Both are important; as long as some of these treasures are airworthy they should be flown. Those specimens which can't be practically and safely flown should be carefully conserved. We need both. The argument gets harder when you are down to one specimen and it's airworthy... then I suppose it really is the owners' call.

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | June 15, 2011 8:34 AM    Report this comment

It's a pity that the Collins B-17 had to be destroyed,

Not the Collings B-17 that went down, but the Liberty Foundation's airplane.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 15, 2011 8:38 AM    Report this comment

Airplanes were meant to fly. Sometimes they crash, but that is part of aviation. If they can fly and be reasonably safe they should. A couple of weeks ago I was driving through the Twin Cities and saw the B-25 "Miss Mitchell" flying over Saint Paul on approach to Fleming Field (SGS) in South Saint Paul. It was the highlight of the drive.

When we get to the last one remaining of a type, then it would be better to put them in a museum. The only airplane I can immediately think of that shouldn't fly is Lindbergh's "Spirit of Saint Louis" that now hangs in the Smithsonian. Second thought, I can think of more: The B-29 "Enola Gay" and Yeager's Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis" should stay right where they are.

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 15, 2011 9:14 AM    Report this comment

As a degreed historian and one-time intern in the Research Division of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force...I agree with Paul completely. Seeing and (for most people) hearing these veteran airplanes fly does far more to preserve the history of the airplanes and those who designed, built, flew, maintained and supported them than seeing one in pristine polish behind velvet ropes. As long as truly one-of-a-kind airplanes are protected, if the owners of these treasures are able and willing to put so much money and labor into keeping them flying, we're all the better for their efforts.

Posted by: Thomas Turner | June 15, 2011 9:25 AM    Report this comment

Sounds like most everyone is in agreement-they were made to fly, fly 'em. A time will come when only the static examples are left, which is only a small step above looking at a book of pretty pictures. Until that time comes, we shold still keep on display the truly impressive part, which is the sound, smell, visual impact and feel of what these machines truly represent.

Posted by: John Wilson | June 15, 2011 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Airplanes are built to fly. As long as they are airworthy - Fly them!

Posted by: Richard Montague | June 15, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

One of the small things I like about living in the Phoenix metro area is that I often see the CAF's B-17 out and about locally. Every time I see it, I observe that most folks look up, and for the most part, smile. That has a value we can't ignore.

I often contend that General Aviation as we know it (a by-product of WWII) is an inherent part of the American character, whether we're all admitting to that or not. Airplanes like these help remind us of this identity. If they never fly, then we lose that reminder of who we are. Like the nation that could once go to the moon, but, no more.

Fuel and regulations may eventually relegate the remaining survivors to museum pieces. Until then, long may they stay airworthy.

Posted by: Steve Cornelius | June 15, 2011 11:49 AM    Report this comment

"Sounds like most everyone is in agreement"

Yes, how boring. If I don't see any spark in this forum, I'm going to change the blog to suggest all B-17s should be grounded and you need a government permit to even look at one.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 15, 2011 11:59 AM    Report this comment

A tragic loss of a historic aircraft. Thankfully no one was hurt, and kudos to the pilot for a successful emergency landing. Hopefully they can salvage some of the remains to keep the rest of the B-17 fleet flying! There is no better history than "Living" history, and our warbirds fleet is the greatest example of this. Keep them flying as long as possible.

Posted by: Richard Radvanyi | June 15, 2011 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I took off behind Aluminum Overcast last Saturday. I made my instructor pull out her blackberry so I could shoot a photo through the canopy vent. :)

The event in Illinois reminded me of the Hudson ditching. Handed a nightmare scenario, the flight crew saved everyone aboard with a perfect off-airport landing. Good job.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | June 15, 2011 1:34 PM    Report this comment

"I'm going to change the blog to suggest all B-17s should be grounded and you need a government permit to even look at one".

Well, you could repost the original in USAToday, and see what happens there.

(But I think you have more productive things to do...)

Posted by: Steve Cornelius | June 15, 2011 2:21 PM    Report this comment

Fly-em I say! The USAF Museum has at least one of most everything preserved for static display (and a spare Twin Mustang from the CAF I might add - how's that for a spark!)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | June 15, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

Everyone knows a stradivarius violin is extremely rare and could cost millions of dollars. Yet they do not keep them in museums and never play them. They take them to concerts and play them so people can enjoy them and hear what is so special about them even though something could happen to them while transporting or whatever. These old warbirds are exactly the same. They need to be in the air where they can be experienced and enjoyed. Like any aircraft all care and precautions should always be taken to prevent loss.

Posted by: dominic accettola | June 15, 2011 3:01 PM    Report this comment

SecDef Nominee Panetta talks Obama back from the ledge on demanding permits for citizens to look at warbirds in flight. Whew-- that was a close one!

OK, that was for Paul's benefit. Kudos to the crew for what looked like a perfect landing on the gear in that field. You've got to wonder what kind of fire apparatus showed up that feared going into a field where a bomber on fire had landed and was sitting pretty on her gear - not in deep ruts of mud. Damn shame they couldn't get to her in time.

Having just flown on Aluminum Overcast as a 'volunteer' rider on a positioning fight to Spokane two weeks ago, I can vividly picture how the crew and riders must have felt for those long two minutes from flames to touchdown. So sorry for the loss of a Fort - but the pilot deserves a medal!

Posted by: Mike Weisner | June 15, 2011 4:16 PM    Report this comment

There is nothing better than a living museum. I've seen the Spifire, Hurricane and Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight airborne many times in the last twenty years and every time is special, knowing that it won't last forever. To park the aircraft would a disservice to those who have the passion to ensure they remain airworthy.

Posted by: Roger Lishman | June 16, 2011 5:44 AM    Report this comment

Fly'em. My son and I are both pilots. The first aircraft in which I ever set foot was a B-17, at age 4, at Christmas 1942, visiting my father who was training with the 96th Bomb Group in Idaho before they deployed to England. My son never knew his grandfather for whom he is named. Three years ago we took a ride together in the EAA's B-17, Aluminum Overcast. History connecting the generations. It's priceless.

Posted by: Cornelius Ulman | June 16, 2011 7:21 AM    Report this comment

I'm a big warbird nut, so my answer is as obvious as everyone else's! Of course we should continue to fly them! There's nothing quite like hearing the drone of a round engine in the distance when you're out in your yard, and especially the drone of four of those big round engines!

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | June 16, 2011 7:51 AM    Report this comment

I'm a big warbird nut, so my answer is as obvious as everyone else's! Of course we should continue to fly them! There's nothing quite like hearing the drone of a round engine in the distance when you're out in your yard, and especially the drone of four of those big round engines!

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | June 16, 2011 7:51 AM    Report this comment

The sad part is that our opinions are irrelevant. It will be the FAA creating more and more restrictions, lawyers litigating for the pure sake of making money, and the insurance companies that will determine the future of these aircraft. All we can do is keep working with EAA, AOPA, etc. lobbying to minimize and delay the changes. The changes are coming. All we can do is slow them down.

Posted by: Roger Bocox | June 16, 2011 7:56 AM    Report this comment

I think we need to make sure we have at least one example somewhere, but I guess there is always the possibility of the plane being destroyed on the ground which would be even worse. Where are all the non-flying condition examples of B-17s and why are we not restoring them is the bigger question. These are very majestic airplanes (atleast for someone like us) I saw a B-17 fly over a few years ago and talked about it for a month, I've seen them at airshows but just seeing one out flying was very cool. They make great bill boards to draw kids to aviation (on the ground or in the sky, but better in the sky).

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | June 16, 2011 8:13 AM    Report this comment

I think of the heritage flights that are part of many airshows these days. I remember one at Sun N Fun a few years ago, everyone (probably 1,000 people sitting in the grass), when they saw the P-51, F-4, F-16, and P-38 coming stood up nearly at attention. As for me, I will never forget that experience. Compare that to 4 F-15's flying by. The F-15 is a great plane, but to get the heart pounding in your chest, a heritage fligh will do that. Paul, and many others who commented here, are correct. These wonderful planes need to fly. Why the British know that too. For the wedding of Prince William and Kate there were two WWII British aircraft flying over Buckingham Palace. These planes are inspiring...I find it sad to see one sitting in a museum knowing it will never fly again. That certainly must be and is good, but be careful and fly them for all to see.

Posted by: Ray Mansfield | June 16, 2011 8:34 AM    Report this comment

Sure they should fly. As should the FW-190F that came out of the sun to get her.... Wonder why they did not shoot back... Oh, this is Chicago, I forgot, only the illegals have guns...and we can only call nine one one.

Posted by: Robert Ziegler | June 16, 2011 8:41 AM    Report this comment

A few years ago, we were based at FRG in an old community hanger, at the approach end of RWY 19. I was standing outside, when an Avro Lancaster took the runway and departed, to participate in a memorial day airshow at nearby Jones Beach. I figured that he would be back to land right over my head, in about 20 minutes, so I waited. Sure enough, he flew right over me and landed. The sound of those four Merlins, crackling and popping, as well as the smell, was amazing! Even throttled back, the ground as well as my insides shook from the sound. It made me think of how this must have felt to people on the ground when hundreds of them departed from England, and later when they approached their targets at night! Not exactly a "museum" experience! Until this experience, I couldn't imagine why people would purchase CDs of airplane sounds at the Oshkosh fly-market. Now I get it. That old hanger is another story. It was part of Republic Aviation Co., was built about 70 years ago and was part of P47 Thinderbolt history, but after all of this time it was decided that it was too close to taxiways and runways and needed to be demolished!

Posted by: Steve Tobias | June 16, 2011 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Wow, seems like there is little debate here indeed. Surprisingly, even the tireless contrairians are refraining from their arguments and caps lock text. I'm on a type club email list and the subject has been discussed and several folks argue that the time my soon be upon us to ground historic aircraft. This doesn't make much sense because the type club is comprised of aircraft that are contemporaries of B-17s. My question would be who is given the right to decide the fate of privately operated aircraft? Are the owners to be guilted into grounding their planes for the sake of some outside party? Almost all of the historic aircraft that the American people collectively own are appropriately housed in exceptional museums. Those that are not collectively owned by the public should be used at their owners' discretion.

Posted by: Ryan Lunde | June 16, 2011 9:03 AM    Report this comment

To the park-it-and-preserve-it crowd I've always said "If you want to determine the fate of a piece of property...then buy it. Otherwise it's not really anyone else's business". Somehow they rationalize that they have an interest in it (beats me how they arrive at that). Keep'em Flying!

Posted by: A Richie | June 16, 2011 9:15 AM    Report this comment

If you are a pilot and you ever get a chance to fly a WW2 bomber, do it. I was fortunate to have received 2 hours of flight training in Collings Foundation B-25 Tondelayo. Arm wrestling the B-25 into my first steep right turn and then trying to flick it into a left turn is an experience never forgotten. As my instructor chuckled, "This is a 25,000 lb airplane. Those ailerons out there are connected to that yoke with cables and pulleys. Fly it." That entry in my logbook is the one that I just have to look at and pinch myself every once in a while. These vintage aircraft are part of our slowly vanishing living history. But a part of history that we can still experience. Fly them.

Posted by: Marc Salvisberg | June 16, 2011 11:09 AM    Report this comment

I sincerely hope the owners of vintage aircraft will continue to be operators of them. As long as they are airworthy "Keep 'em flying"!

Posted by: Stanley Tew | June 16, 2011 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Keep em flying..

Posted by: Patty Haley | June 16, 2011 2:31 PM    Report this comment

And..See you around the patch!

Posted by: Patty Haley | June 16, 2011 2:38 PM    Report this comment

Paul and Ryan are right...this is preaching to the choir!! Who among us pilots is willing to give up any more of our freedom without kicking and screaming?

Posted by: Steve Tobias | June 16, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

"Who among us pilots is willing to give up any more of our freedom without kicking and screaming?"

That's dangerously close to "Here comes the politics!" :-)

But, limiting access to these flying monuments does affect our pursuit of happiness.

Posted by: Marc Salvisberg | June 16, 2011 2:58 PM    Report this comment

Well, to inject a little controversy into this thread:

On the ATC recording it's a bit depressing to listen to the T-6 pilot (was it?) shouting "you're on fire, you're on fire" over and over again - giving no useful information - then "put it on the ground, put it on the ground" over and over again; and the controller asking "who's on fire?" and nobody answering. This all takes about a minute on the recording. I wonder what the T-6 pilot thought he was contributing. If he'd just made one simple call "B-17, this is T-6, your left inner engine [or whatever] is on fire" and then shut up and cleared the frequency for the B-17 pilot to call Mayday and say what he was doing - or if he'd answered the controller and told her exactly what was happening - perhaps the emergency services might have got started a whole lot quicker?

Posted by: John Stanning | June 16, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

"...perhaps the emergency services might have got started a whole lot quicker?"

John,

Apparently it wouldn't have mattered. The firefighters were afraid to drive to the burning B-17 because they thought the cornfield was too muddy and they would get bogged down.

That's difficult to understand. The one image I've seen shows an intact B-17 sitting in the cornfield with only one engine burning. (That was before the fire spread to the entire airplane.) The B-17 was able to land without getting bogged down in the mud. (The wheels on the landing gear are clearly visible, and have not sunk into the mud.)

The question is why were the firefighters so reluctant to try and drive to the burning airplane when the B-17 had been able to land and roll to a stop?

Posted by: Gary Dikkers | June 16, 2011 4:57 PM    Report this comment

Gary -

The photos (at least the ones that I saw) don't really show us the roadside conditions, where you are most likely to encounter a ditch or bad conditions.

I think there may have been a good chance that the engine could have at least made it as far as the plane. But by then, it was an issue of property loss, not of any threat to life or safety.

Suppose the fire engine became mired down when a semi rig plowed into a school bus, just a quarter mile away?

I'm willing to believe that the chief made the right decision - painful though it must have been.

Posted by: Rush Strong | June 16, 2011 6:53 PM    Report this comment

I agree that they should be flown HOWEVER, stop using them for aerobatics. At a recent sun n fun, I saw f4f Wildcats flying aerobatics as if they were extra 300's. The B 24 was turning 60 degre bank angles. Let's fly them but please realize that their dogfighting days are long past. When they are gone, they are gone!

Posted by: Art Ahrens | June 16, 2011 7:32 PM    Report this comment

Josh made a good point that the USAF Museum has examples of almost all the army planes, but as a former staff member of that great institution I can tell you that most of them aren't record copies and unless they flew into the museum they are missing most of their systems, some their engines... Don't count on this place to have the record copy we're all wanting to save.

Posted by: scott ferguson | June 17, 2011 7:07 AM    Report this comment

Josh made a good point that the USAF Museum has examples of almost all the army planes, but as a former staff member of that great institution I can tell you that most of them aren't record copies and unless they flew into the museum they are missing most of their systems, some their engines... Don't count on this place to have the record copy we're all wanting to save.

Posted by: scott ferguson | June 17, 2011 7:07 AM    Report this comment

Just curious, did those aircraft have fire surpression systems in their nacelles? If so, I wonder if it was deployed, in this case? I remember from my younger days that radial engine failures were often spectacular and fiery affairs.

Posted by: Steve Tobias | June 17, 2011 10:34 AM    Report this comment

Yes, the multi engined aircraft had fire bottles in the nacelles. They did trigger the bottle, but that doesn't always put the fire out without diving and increasing airspeed as well to snuff the blaze out. These guys didn't have the height to do both and likely switched off the fuel flow to the engine when they feathered the prop. just a rotten bit of luck to have a small blaze at landing and nobody able to get close to douse the flames.

Posted by: scott ferguson | June 17, 2011 10:46 AM    Report this comment

At the risk of playing armchair NTSB investigator, I have been reading the web posts and looking at a lot of pictures, but am not making factual claims – I was not there. What has been clearly stated is that the Belle was experiencing some maintenance issues over the weekend. There is a photo of the LH lower wing skin removed (claimed to be on Sunday- day before the crash) showing the fuel tank and what I believe is the boost pump. (Go to the last photo in this string: http://www.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/index.html?story=5936097)

The pic posted on the Liberty Foundation's website two days ago (not the one there today) shows flames along the inner lower LH wing, but both the #1 and #2 cowls look just fine. With that in mind, I’ve been looking at all pictures of her in the cornfield and do not see any obvious charring or other visible evidence of an engine fire. Could it be that there was a wing fuel leak and the fuel stream somehow ignited? AT-6 driver saw fire on the left wing, but perhaps it wasn’t engine fire.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, but that open fuel tank bay sure looks like a smoking gun to me.

Posted by: Mike Weisner | June 17, 2011 11:58 AM    Report this comment

The photo strig is: http://www.suntimes.com/photos/galleries/index.html?story=5936097 (The link fell off my previous post.

Posted by: Mike Weisner | June 17, 2011 12:03 PM    Report this comment

I have just learned that putting links doesn't work... ;-( The photo I am referring to was on the Chicago Sun Times coverage on Monday.

Posted by: Mike Weisner | June 17, 2011 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Mike, sorry about the links. It's our anti-spam defense. We were getting hammered by spam links so we had to such the capability off.

You can post the link without the www. If it's long, do a snip url. It won't link directly, but it will be pastable. Sorry for the hassle, but the alternative is worse.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | June 17, 2011 1:57 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the tip Paul-- Here's the link: suntimes.com/photos/galleries/index.html?story=5936097

Posted by: Mike Weisner | June 17, 2011 2:40 PM    Report this comment

I'm always willing to contribute controversy! (smile)

I grieve over the decision by fire crews to not even risk getting stuck in the field (a tow truck would eventually pull the rigs out without loss to the rigs themselves) to try to prevent the otherwise certain destruction of priceless property. What if there had been passengers trapped in the aircraft? What would a B-17G like the Liberty Belle bring at auction? $2 Million? $10 Million? What does a firetruck tow/extracation cost? $5,000?

The owner of an airplane (warbird or otherwise) makes the final decision to fly or not. Otherwise, the concept of property rights are violated. There once was a museum that regularly operated its fleet, but the contingent that did the actual operating felt it was their god-given right to operate museum aircraft without hull insurance, and without regard for the unsustainable costs which threatened the very economic viability of the museum. When I took public issue with this, my generally pro-flying position was misrepresented, I was publicly vilified, and run off. In the ensuing aftermath, the museum became a non-flying museum. It was lose-lose. Not my fault! How’s that for controversy?

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | June 17, 2011 2:48 PM    Report this comment

Bruce -

As I mentioned before, it is not the financial risk (of retrieving a fire engine) that applies here. It is the risk of putting the equipment out of service should there be another emergency. Had there been passengers trapped, an effort would have been justified. But the passengers had not only already evacuated, they even had time to grab their luggage.

Give the guys there a bit of credit. Do you think a fireman would avoid a chance to fight the fire? I'm sure the decision to stand down was painful.

Posted by: Rush Strong | June 17, 2011 6:43 PM    Report this comment

Bruce -

As I mentioned before, it is not the financial risk (of retrieving a fire engine) that applies here. It is the risk of putting the equipment out of service should there be another emergency. Had there been passengers trapped, an effort would have been justified. But the passengers had not only already evacuated, they even had time to grab their luggage.

Give the guys there a bit of credit. Do you think a fireman would avoid a chance to fight the fire? I'm sure the decision to stand down was painful.

Posted by: Rush Strong | June 19, 2011 6:43 PM    Report this comment

It is exciting to see that so many of us believe we should keep them flying for many reasons! The problem is that it is very expensive to restore and operate them. I understand the Liberty Foundation has another one to restore but it certainly will cost millions of dollars. How about we all show our interest in keeping them flying by supporting the effort financially? Just a thought :-)... I looked online and found that donations can be sent to: Liberty Foundation 11564 East 7th Street Tulsa, OK 74128

Posted by: Jeanine Chambers | June 22, 2011 12:30 PM    Report this comment

As a P-51 and T-6 owner I'm committed to flying my planes as long as we can safely maintain them. But I do wonder when that will no longer be possible. I believe that the issue will be the engines and props. The parts and people with the skills to assembly them are both disappearing.

Posted by: todd stuart | June 24, 2011 5:01 PM    Report this comment

Some years ago I had a chance to ride the B-17 owned by Evergreen based in McMinnville, Oregon. I didn't feel like paying the money at the time. Now I wished I had! It's now sitting in the museum with a cracked wing strut. Fixable, but expensive.

Fortunately they still fly their Ford Tri-Motor, last I heard. Now if they would just put the H-4 back in the air...

Posted by: Jon Devine | June 26, 2011 11:05 AM    Report this comment

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