Losses and Aviation Safety

Listen to Collings Foundation B-25 Crew Giving an Emotional Salute to their Fallen B-17 Nine-O-Nine Brothers

“We gotta leave behind two of our friend: Mac and Mike, and our brothers – our brothers and fellow crew. Also a salute to our god old friend, the 909,” Collings Foundation B-25 Aircrew.

Taken on Oct. 6, 2019 at Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut, the video in this post features Air Traffic Control (ATC) communication between Bradley Tower (BDL TWR) and Collings Foundation B-25 (N3476G) aircrew who gives an emotional salute to their fallen B-17 Nine-O-Nine Brothers.

Ernest McCauley, a pilot with more than 7,000 hours of experience flying a B-17 and Michael Foster, his co-pilot, were among seven people killed when Nine-O-Nine crashed and burned at Bradley International Airport on Oct. 2, 2019.

According to Stars and Stripes, McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California, had flown for over 20 years with Collings Foundation the owner of B-17 Nine-O-Nine. He was also its safety officer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The World War II-era Flying Fortress carrying 13 people crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff Wednesday morning from Bradley International Airport. Five passengers were killed along with McCauley and Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida.

Gary Mazzone, 60, a history and a military buff of East Windsor, was among the passengers killed. His son, Daniel Mazzone, didn’t know of his father’s plans to ride the B-17, but Daniel knew why he would be interested.

“I think he just wanted to see what it was like to be in the back of a B-17,” Daniel Mazzone said. “He loved World War II. He loved people who served this country in any capacity.”

The other passengers killed in the flight were James Roberts, 48, of Ludlow, Massachusetts; David Broderick, 56, of West Springfield, Massachusetts; and Robert Rubner, 64, of Tolland, Connecticut.

The flight engineer Mitchell Melton, 34, of Dalhart, Texas, survived with injuries. Five other passengers on the plane were injured along with Andrew Sullivan, 28, an airport employee who was on the ground near the site of the accident.

Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante, an airman with the Connecticut National Guard who was aboard the B-17 bomber helped other passengers escape the flames by using his fire-resistant gloves to open a hatch, officials said.

Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine was used to take history buffs and aircraft enthusiasts on short flights, during which they could get up and walk around the loud and windy interior. Nine-O-Nine (along with several other Collings Foundation aircraft) was taking part in Wings of Freedom airshow hosted by Bradley International Airport.

Here’s the transcript of the radio transmission between Bradley Tower ATC and Collings Foundation B-25 crew:

N3476G: Bradley tower, Mitchell 3476G, holding point runway 6. We’re gonna need about 30 seconds on the runway after we get in position.

BDL TWR: Mitchell 3476G, Bradley tower. Wind 040 at 5. Runway 6, turn right heading 095, cleared for takeoff. Delay on the runway is approved.

N3476G: Cleared for takeoff runway 6, heading 095 on departure, 3476G.

N3476G: Hey Tower, B-25, any chance to take a second to say something?

BDL TWR: Go ahead.

N3476G: This is difficult but bear with it. I think from everybody here, our crew and the entire Collings Foundation, we’re very appreciative and deeply sorrow for everything. To all of you here at the airport, to the people of Connecticut, and especially those families that were involved in this tragedy this week.

On a personal note and I guess it’s even more difficult because we never do it, but we gotta leave behind two of our friends: Mac and Mike, and our brothers – our brothers and fellow crew. Also a salute to our good old friend, the 909. Collings foundation B-25 is ready for departure.

BDL TWR: Thank you very much. I’ll pass it right along. Runway 6, cleared for takeoff.

N3476G: Cleared to go runway 6, 3476G, thank you guys!

BDL TWR: N76G, on the 095 heading, contact Departure. Have a safe journey!

N3476G: 095 heading and over to Departure, 3476G, take-care!

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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