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Pilot reflects on the crew and B-17 that was lost

KILLINGWORTH - Only a small number of experienced pilots can fly vintage military planes and last week’s accident at Bradley Airport has hit their community hard.

Craig McBurney spent four years of his career flying the B-17 that went up in flames last Wednesday.

The pilot, Ernest McCauley, reported a problem with the plane’s engine before touching down back at Bradley Airport, lost control and crashed into a de-icing facility.

“We really started to pull together to see, do we know who was flying the airplane and to be honest with you, none of us have really speculated, we don’t know, we weren't there,” McBurney said.

Seven people lost their lives.

“All of our group of pilots and veterans were all sending our thoughts and prayers for this horrible tragedy and the loss of life and the loss of a historic aircraft as well,” McBurney said.

The Killingworth native said back in the 1990’s,  he flew the historic plane for the Collings Foundation with honor and privilege.

He said vintage World War era aircraft consistently undergoes maintenance and receives strict oversight from the FAA and qualified aviation teams.

“The truth is these aircrafts are so valuable now and they’re so rare, that they are meticulously restored and maintained,” McBurney said.

McBurney described seeing passengers on the B-17 years ago, reliving World War era memories, good and bad, but hopes the foundation continues the tradition of offering tours.

“That aircraft flew around the country for years and was able to provide experiences to veterans, and veterans’ children and grandchildren, who maybe didn't understand the sacrifices of WWII,” McBurney said.

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