Information

B-17 'Just Right'


B-17 'Just Right'

Here we see 'Coyle' standing in front of B-17 'Just Right' of the Eighth Air Force.

Pictures provided by Sgt. Robert S. Tucker Sr. (Member of: The American Air Museum in Britain {Duxford} ).
Robert S. WWII Photo Book, Mighty 8th. AF, Ground Crew


'Cold Blue' Shows the B-17 Bomber Like You've Never Seen It Before

The hero of WWII is the star of a brand-new kind of documentary.

The B-17 &ldquoFlying Fortress&rdquo is one of the most iconic aircraft of World War II. Built by Boeing, the four-engine bomber was the United States&rsquo primary weapon of destruction in the air campaign to annihilate cities and bring Nazi Germany to its knees. Its combat performance was decidedly uneven, yet no one questions its primacy in the war.

The B-17E, the first mass-produced model, carried nine machine guns and a 4,000-pound bomb load. Its distinctive and enormous tail improved control and stability during high-altitude bombing. Crews loved its smoothness&mdash&ldquoIt flew like an overgrown Piper Cub,&rdquo said one pilot&mdashand its ability to absorb enemy fire and keep flying.

&ldquoWithout the B-17 we may have lost the war,&rdquo said General Carl Spaatz, commander of U.S. Strategic Air Forces in Europe.

Despite hundreds of hours of newsreel footage and its appearance in innumerable documentaries and big budget Hollywood films, however, no one has ever managed to capture what it was like to actually fly a mission in a B-17&mdashdropping bombs on German cities while being attacked by Luftwaffe fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

That changes on May 23 with the nationwide, one-night-only theatrical screening of The Cold Blue, an extraordinary new documentary that makes use of recently discovered battle footage and miraculous film restoration technology. The film is the astounding result of a three-year labor by documentarian Erik Nelson, whose four-decade career includes producing Werner Herzog&rsquos Grizzly Man, Discovery Channel&rsquos Unsolved History series and numerous World War II documentaries, including Anne Frank&rsquos Holocaust.

After discovering largely unseen B-17 footage in both American and German archives, Nelson&rsquos groundbreaking documentary eventually drew support and contributions from late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, George Lucas&rsquo Skywalker Ranch studio, sound design maestro David Hughes (Black Panther, Pirates of the Caribbean series), folk-rock legend Richard Thompson and, most importantly, nine B-17 crewmen, all now in their 90s.

Like Peter Jackson&rsquos 2018 World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old&mdasha comparison Nelson doesn&rsquot shy from&mdashThe Cold Blue builds a mesmerizing historical journey with a one-two punch of technological wizardry and emotional but never cloying artistry. The result is one of the most visceral World War II documentaries ever produced.

&ldquoYou can&rsquot mess around with history. If you&rsquore publishing for the ages you gotta get it right.&rdquo

&ldquoI was very influenced by (2017&rsquos) Dunkirk, which was an impressionistic and unconventional WWII movie. It gave you the images and sounds and let you catch up with the events,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoBut felt I could do Dunkirkone better because my footage was real.&rdquo

Resuscitating History

After being commissioned by Allen&rsquos Vulcan Productions to research color footage of World War II aircraft, Nelson stumbled into an astonishing find. At the National Archives, a researcher named Elizabeth Hartjens casually mentioned the existence of 15 hours of color outtakes shot in April-May 1943 by director William Wyler for his famed documentary Memphis Belle, about a B-17 and its crew.

&ldquoI knew right then this would be the project,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoThis is a treasure beyond all imagining. It&rsquos the King Tut&rsquos tomb of World War II archival footage and attention must be paid.&rdquo

Released in 1944, Memphis Belle was essentially a propaganda film commissioned by the U.S. government to, in Nelson&rsquos words, &ldquojustify the incredible investment in money and human lives that was going on in 1943 and &lsquo44 in the skies over Germany and justify why all those telegrams were going out to homes around the United States.&rdquo

To match sound to a sequence of six B-17s taking off, Hughes recorded takeoffs from six angles.

Nelson and his team pored through Wyler&rsquos unused footage. After an assist from Criss Austin, a motion picture preservation specialist with the National Archives, who transferred the original 16mm film to 4K, they went to work digitally fixing dust spots, scratches and restoring faded color. Most crucially, they eliminated a large and hideous blue line that, due to an error at the original processing lab in London, marred every frame of Wyler&rsquos film.

The larger problem was sound. Or lack of it. None of Wyler&rsquos film was shot with audio. Nelson wanted to create a &ldquobig-screen, time travel, see-it-in-a-theater-in-the-dark-with-surround-sound portal into the past.&rdquo He couldn&rsquot do that without sound.

To remedy the situation he enlisted Hughes and found one of a handful of still-operational B-17s. On a 90-minute flight from Vero Beach to Naples, Florida, in a B-17 owned by the Collings Foundation, Hughes mounted microphones in 18 positions around the plane precisely matching the spots from which Wyler shot his original footage.

The microphones and audio equipment came on loan from Lucas&rsquo Skywalker Ranch, where the final mix was done along with a screening with legendary soundman Ben Burtt (Star Wars series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade Runner). During that screening, Burtt confirmed to Nelson that he and Lucas had watched Wyler&rsquos Memphis Belle over and over again while they were creating the original Star Wars battle scenes.

&ldquoI was able to fly in the front of the B-17 surrounded by the Plexiglas nose,&rdquo says Nelson, recalling images of Han Solo&rsquos Millennium Falcon. &ldquoI&rsquom not sure there&rsquos anything flying today in any kind of airframe that&rsquos clear all around where you&rsquore literally sitting suspended in a plastic bubble while moving 200 mph across the earth. I called it the God spot.&rdquo

Hughes was just as meticulous recording outside the plane. To match sound to a sequence of six different B-17s taking off, he recorded takeoffs from six different positions on a runway to capture the sounds from spots Wyler had placed his cameras, recreating events as Wyler would have heard them.

&ldquoIf you see a shot from a certain angle you&rsquove got stand next to a B-17 and record the sound from the same angle,&rdquo Nelson says. &ldquoYou can&rsquot mess around with history. If you&rsquore publishing for the ages you gotta get it right.&rdquo

The team was just as careful with the sounds of German anti-aircraft fire, known as flak. In movies, flak is often represented as a big boom.

&ldquoIt doesn&rsquot sound like that, it&rsquos a subcutaneous noise,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoOne former crewman told us it sounded like you&rsquore in a storm drain and someone throws gravel on top of an aluminum pipe. Shrapnel doesn&rsquot explode. Flak shrapnel is fragments penetrating a thin aluminum shell.&rdquo

Those terrifying sounds and subcutaneous sensations were common during missions. Following the war, one B-17 veteran sent the Boeing Company a letter explaining how he returned to England after a bombing raid over Germany in a B-17 with 179 flak holes and only two of the four engines operating.

A Whole New Documentary Genre

The Cold Blue isn&rsquot narrated in the traditional sense.

&ldquoMy original one-liner was &lsquoIt&rsquos Koyaanisqatsi with B-17s,&rdquo says Nelson, referencing the groundbreaking 1982 experimental film that presented a visual poem of natural landscapes with no narration and a minimalist Philip Glass score.

Text slates provide some context, but otherwise The Cold Blue story is stitched together with audio clips from nine B-17 crewmen Nelson interviewed around the country. One man describes watching a fatal episode in which a nearby B-17 flying in tight formation accidentally descended on top of another sending both planes and all crew to their deaths. &ldquoThat&rsquos when I started smoking by the way,&rdquo the man concludes with a rueful laugh.

Aside from a brief introduction, none of the veterans make a physical appearance until the end of the film. Traditional World War II documentaries tend to toggle between old footage and postwar interviews with survivors.

&ldquoIt wrenches you out of the moment,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoMy intention with The Cold Blue was to put it together with the sensibility of a 21 st -century documentarian.&rdquo

The most effective example of contemporary sensibilities is a tight shot of three American mechanics examining a B-17 engine cowling on a typical English airfield. Wyler uses a large boom to pull back the camera on a lush country setting with an ancient stone church in the background. It&rsquos the most cinematic moment of the film, even if Wyler himself didn&rsquot recognize it.

"My intention with The Cold Blue was to put it together with the sensibility of a 21st-century documentary."

&ldquoThat (tight) shot is in Memphis Belle, but what isn&rsquot in Memphis Belle is the pull-out, which is inexplicable to me,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoThat one shot summarizes my intentions with The Cold Blue. Filmmakers had different sensibilities in the 1940s. They wouldn&rsquot let shots play out their full length. There are a number of shots in The Cold Blue we let go for the whole shot. That&rsquos what filmmakers do today.&rdquo

To augment his modern aesthetic, Nelson signed on renowned British musician Richard Thompson, who composed and recorded a score riven with haunting strings and melancholy acoustic guitar. Born in 1949, Thompson grew up playing in the rubble of bombed-out London.

&ldquoThey didn&rsquot clear all the rubble out till the early &lsquo60s,&rdquo says Nelson, who had collaborated with Thompson on four previous films. &ldquoThere wasn&rsquot an English kid of that time who didn&rsquot play in bombed-out buildings.&rdquo

Although during filming Nelson wasn&rsquot aware of Peter Jackson&rsquos then in-progress They Shall Not Grow Old, he now sees both films as part of an emerging genre.

&ldquoWhen I heard about Jackson&rsquos film I instantly thought, &lsquoUh oh, incoming, competition,&rsquo&rdquo he says. &ldquoBut secondly I thought, &lsquoOh, I&rsquom not the only one who thinks this might work.&rsquo It was kind of reassuring.&rdquo

Nelson believes he, Jackson and director Todd Douglas Miller&mdashwhose majestic 2019 documentary Apollo 11uses never-before-seen 70mm footage shot during the 1969 NASA moon mission&mdashare creating a new type of documentary genre.

&ldquoIt&rsquos interesting that all three films came out within about a year of each other and all of them fall into this impressionistic history arena,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoAll three of us were consciously thinking of theatrical big screens as a time-travel machine to immerse the viewer in the motion and events.

"In this bifurcated political era not only are filmmakers attracted to material like this, but the technology has caught up with the history, so we are able to make these films."

The Cold Blue will eventually appear on HBO, but beyond the big-screen and surround-sound experience, there&rsquos another reason to see it first in a theater. Presented by special events company Fathom, the May 23 showing will exclusively feature a restored cut of a Nazi propaganda newsreel recently uncovered in Berlin archives. With surprising honesty, it depicts the inhuman devastation German fighters wreaked upon B-17s.

&ldquoThat footage just blew my mind when we came across it,&rdquo says Nelson. &ldquoNo American ever shot footage like that of this kind of carnage. If Wyler had shot footage of the devastation caused by those fighters, he never would have come home.&rdquo

The theatrical screening is also the only way to see a 25-minute &ldquomaking of&rdquo documentary that in its own way is as revealing as the feature film. As bookend events, The Cold Blue does for World War II documentaries what They Shall Not Grow Old did for World War I films. For anyone interested in the war, aviation or the electrifying new direction of historical documentaries, it&rsquos essential viewing.


Mechanic on board WWII-era B-17 that crashed at Bradley International Airport and left 7 dead told investigators the pilot ‘froze’ and turned off a struggling engine midflight

The surviving member of the flight crew of the World War II-era B-17 bomber that crashed at Bradley International Airport last fall told federal investigators he believes the pilot “froze” in midair and turned off an engine against his objections just before the plane crashed, skidded off the runway and exploded, killing seven people.

“[Pilot Ernest] Mac [McCauley] said [engine] number 4 is losing power. I I looked up at the RPM gauge, of course, it was losing power. He said he wanted to cage it,” Mitch Melton, the mechanic on board the Collings Foundation plane on the morning of Oct. 2, 2019, told investigators, according to documents released this week by the National Transportation Safety Board. Cage is a term that means to turn off an engine.

“I wasn’t ready to cage it, I told him, because we weren’t climbing, and I don’t know why. He reached up, caged it,” Melton said. “I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why we weren’t, you know, gaining altitude. I do not know, and that’s what’s frustrating. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if Mac froze. I know I noticed — you know, [copilot] Mike Foster, he didn’t really have much time in the airplane. I don’t know what happened.”

McCauley and Foster both died in the crash, as did five of the passengers on board. The engine McCauley shut down midflight was the same one the crew had difficulty starting before takeoff.

The NTSB released hundreds of pages of documents on its investigation of the crash, although it has not released a final report on what caused it. Besides the interview with the only surviving crew members there are also the harrowing accounts of the survivors of the crash — a tattoo artist from Chicopee, Massachusetts, who got a free ticket after giving Melton a tattoo, a husband and wife who survived by following Melton out of the plane through a plexiglass window and a Simsbury firefighter who crawled toward a light in the tail of the plane while on fire.

“It was extremely hot and I knew the plane was on fire. I saw a light toward the rear of the plane from the open hatch and knew that I needed to make my way in that direction,” the Simsbury firefighter told investigators. “I crawled along the floor to the hatch and jumped out into the fire and aviation fuel that was on the ground. My pants and shirt were on fire.”


PUBLICITY STUNTS OF THE B-17 FLYING FORTRESS

By 1937, the military push by Germany and Japan finally caught the attention of the War Department. But because of the isolationists’ strong hold in Congress, the Air Corps, along with the rest of the U.S. military, had to go about a buildup in surreptitious ways. The Air Corps understood that it needed to impress the public with the importance of funding its planes and technology. So it set up three air exercises in the late 1930s. By today’s standards, they sound simplistic. Back then, they were not.

The first demonstration was really a continuation of a long, simmering rivalry between the Navy and the Air Corps. It was called Joint Air Exercise Number Four, but it became known as the Utah Exercise. It was a competition of sorts. The Navy continued to hold on to its jurisdiction over open water as Washington saw the Air Corps only as a defensive arm of the military. So in theory, the Air Corps existed in case an army invaded the continental United States, which was unlikely. The Army itself saw the main thrust of any future air war only as support for ground troops, but there were those within the Air Corps who wanted to show that the B17 had significantly changed the paradigm.

The rules of the exercise were simple. The Air Corps was given twenty-four hours to locate a battleship, the USS Utah, which would be sailing somewhere off the coast of California between Los Angeles and San Francisco—roughly 120,000 square miles— and hit it with water bombs. The Air Corps could not conduct its own reconnaissance. It had to rely on position reports from the Navy. Eight B-17 Flying Fortresses would be used in the drill, along with a larger number of B-10s and B-18s. The Navy was betting its ships were invulnerable to airplanes, and the Air Corps was saying it could destroy ships from the air. Bob Olds, the commander of the Air Corps fleet, chose LeMay as his chief navigator. The B-17s flew across the country in August 1937 and set up their headquarters at the Oakland airport.

At noon on August 12, the Navy sent its position report to the airport, which radioed it to the B-17s already over the Pacific. LeMay quickly made the calculations and determined that they were actually quite close to the ship. The lead pilot, Major Caleb V. Haynes, brought down the planes through the clouds, but to their surprise, they saw only open water. They set up a search—spreading out the planes and looking for the ship—but they were unable to locate the Utah before dark, when the exercise ended for the day. Olds furiously asked LeMay why they had not found the ship. “I don’t know, Sir,” LeMay responded honestly. “I think we got to where they were supposed to be.” After a few more calculations and a celestial reading, LeMay was convinced that he had been right. “We weren’t very far off. Maybe two or three miles.” Olds asked why he was so sure. “If it’s right,” LeMay responded, showing his charts, “here’s where we are now. And we’re headed straight to San Francisco.” Olds was not happy and grumbled that they still had tomorrow. But he added, “I want the Utah. You’d better find it for me. You were selected to fly lead navigator because I thought you were the best in the group.”

LeMay could not have felt good about any of this, yet he remained convinced that he was right. He was so confident about it that he calculated exactly when they would hit San Francisco on their course homeward. When the time came, LeMay left his seat at the navigator’s table and came back up to the cockpit where Haynes and Olds sat in the pilot and co-pilot seats. As they came over in the dark, there, as LeMay had predicted, were the lights of the city.

“By God, you were right,” Olds said. “Then why didn’t we find the Utah?”

“Maybe,” suggested LeMay, “they gave us the wrong position.”

Because of heavy fog, the planes had to bypass Oakland and fly on to Sacramento where they spent the night. LeMay slept under the wing of the plane in the hangar. Early the next morning, Olds, who spent most of the night on the phone, came over to LeMay and woke him. “The Navy now admits they were one degree off on the position they sent us,” he said. “One degree! That’s sixty miles. No wonder we couldn’t find the son-of-a-bitch. Come on, let’s have a cup of coffee.”

Like the day before, Olds did not wait at the hangar for the Navy to radio in its position. As soon as it was light, he took off so the planes would be out at sea when they received the coordinates. When the information came in, LeMay made his calculations. Then he came back to Olds and Haynes with the bad news. There was no way they could get to the ship before the noon deadline. He figured out that they would be about sixty miles away when the clock struck twelve. Olds was furious. The air seemed to have been sucked out of the plane—everyone on board just sagged. With nothing else to do, Olds ordered the planes to fan out, make sure they were in sight of one another, and fly towards the coordinates anyway. He hoped that the planes could at least locate the Utah, even if it was after the deadline.

Then, with about ten minutes left before the deadline, a huge battleship came into sight. They were not completely sure it was the right battleship, so they looked for markings. The sailors on board appeared to be just loitering on the deck and not in any great worry of an imminent attack. When they saw the correct flag, the bombardier asked permission to drop the water bombs the plane was carrying. Olds gave him the OK, and in the ensuing “attack,” the B-17 Flying Fortresses scored three direct hits and several near misses.

As dejected as the men onboard the planes had been just minutes before, they were equally jubilant after the ship was hit. The airmen watched the sailors scurrying around in a frenzy. Then the planes headed back to the coast as LeMay charted a course, this time to March Field in Riverside. Along the way, LeMay figured out why they were able to hit the Utah before the deadline. Once again, the Navy had sent out misinformation. For the second day in a row they were off by one degree, which would account for the sixty-mile differential. But this time, the one degree mistake was in their favor. The euphoria of the air crews was short lived, however. An order came out immediately after landing that the entire exercise would remain classified—there would be no publicity whatsoever. The Navy had its way in Washington. The story would stay within the military. The Navy then attacked Olds and the bombers with what now sounds like the weakest possible argument. It said that since the planes came in suddenly out of the clouds, the ship did not have time to perform any evasive maneuvers. “The exercise doesn’t prove a thing,” the Navy said. Rather than explain that planes coming in out of nowhere was precisely the problem that ships would face in the future, Olds had another suggestion. He challenged the Navy to one more test on the following day: let the B-17s target the ship from a higher altitude at a prescribed time, allowing the Utah to take any evasive action it desired. Boxed into a corner, the Navy agreed. The following day, the B-17s came in at 8,000 feet on what turned out to be a picture-perfect clear day in the Pacific. The ship took evasive action, but to no avail. It was hit again. And again the entire event was kept from the general public.

Following the Utah exercise, the Air Corps realized that, in order to help the American public understand the growing importance of air power, it needed to come up with a public relations campaign. In January 1938, the U.S. State Department announced that as a gesture of goodwill, the B-17 Flying Fortresses of the Air Corps would fly to Argentina for the inauguration of the country’s new president. Franklin Roosevelt was sending a message to Berlin and Tokyo: the United States had the most advanced, state-of-the-art bomber in the world with a capacity to fly long distances.

The flight to South America was an unqualified success. It received a great deal of press coverage, and the people of South America were excited to get anywhere near the planes. The event did not go unnoticed in the Axis capitals. The B-17 Flying Fortresses had flown fifteen hours over oceans without refueling on their flight from Miami to Lima. Berlin was now in range of England.

This article is part of our larger resource on the history of aviation in World War Two. Click here to read more about WW2 aviation.

You can also buy the book by clicking on the buttons to the left.


Video: NTSB Issues Chilling Report on 2019 Collings Foundation B-17 Crash.

The October 2019 crash of the historic warbird in Hartford, CT, claimed the lives of seven of the 13 onboard. The NTSB found problems with restraints and with the engines.

By Plane & Pilot Updated December 11, 2020

2019 Collings Foundation B-17 Crash.

Engine and restraint problems were cited in the NTSB’s latest findings on the October 2019 crash of the Collings Foundation Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress known as Nine-O-Nine in which seven people were killed and six survived, all but one with serious injuries. The publication of the docket for the factual report also detailed some of the survivors’ experiences in the Oct. 2 accident that left the Commercial pilot and Airline Transport Pilot co-pilot among the six dead.

The docket for this major investigation, which we are still in the process of reviewing, includes thousands of pages and hundreds of photographs, videos and charts and graphs, among other materials. Sections of the docket that cover what the NTSB refers to as “survivability factors,” and the report from the powerplant group, contained some alarming details.

The flight was being conducted under an exemption to the regulations as a Living History Flight Experience (LHFE), which allowed the Collings Foundation to fly paying passengers without meeting all of the requirements that govern revenue-generating flights. Such exemptions are quite common, and allow passengers to experience flight in aircraft, like the B-17, that were never intended for paying passengers.

The B-17 had taxied to Runway 6 at KBDL for the sightseeing flight with 10 passengers and 3 crewmembers aboard. After completing a run-up, it departed normally. Shortly thereafter, however, a crewmember reported a problem with the number-four engine (the one farthest from the pilot on the right) and turned back to the field.

Engine Findings

Much speculation about the crash has focused on the plane’s engines, Curtiss-Wright R-1820 nine-cylinder radials, and the NTSB has focused a great of attention to them—the powerplant team’s report alone is 132 pages long. Investigators found that the number-three “…engine’s pistons and spark plugs showed evidence of detonation that would have resulted in a significant loss of engine power.” Engine numbers three and four are both on the right (starboard) side of the plane.

Investigators also found problems with the number-four engine, the one the pilot reported a problem with, and which necessitated to the return to the field. “The examination of the No. 4 engine,” the section’s author wrote, “showed the P-lead to the left and right magnetos was separated from the magnetos’ housings.” It goes on to say, “The leads to each of the magnetos were secured with a single strand of safety wire that was loose. The lead to the left magneto was completely out of the housing allowing the grounding tab to contact the housing shorting it out.”

The investigators checked its functionality and discovered that the faulty ground was likely the cause of the loss of power, writing, “When a piece of cardboard was placed between the grounding tab and the magneto case wall, all nine ignition leads sparked. The lead to the right magneto was partially engaged, so the grounding tab was not contacting the case. But the gap between the points was less than the required minimum and when the magneto was tested, the No. 8 cylinder’s ignition leads did not spark at all and the sparks for the other eight cylinders’ ignition leads were weak and intermittent.”

The condition of the respective propellers seems to support what investigators found when they tore down the engines and accessories. They found that the condition and configuration of the propeller of engine number four was consistent with it having been in the feathered position, while the “…damage to the No. 3 propeller was consistent with the propeller being in the normal operating position.” Much speculation has centered on whether the accident came after the loss of power in one or multiple engines.

Crash And Aftermath

After the pilot reported the problem to the tower, the B-17 entered a downwind to Runway 6, the same runway from which it had departed, but landed short of the runway and veered off to the right before crossing the infield and the parallel taxiway before entering a non-movement zone and hitting a deicing facility a couple of hundred yards away from the initial ground contact.

The plane burst into flames.

Seven were killed, and six survived. One of the more disturbing findings presented in the factual report was that several seat belts failed. One survivor reported that his seat belt failed and that he was thrown forward.

The plane was not outfitted with seats but, rather, floor seating positions with seat belts. Some of the seat belts failed when the plane crashed, and one was reported to have been missing a part on its fastener that a surviving passenger reported prevented him from fastening it.

An excerpt from the report paints a picture of desperation before, during and after the crash.

“During impact passenger LS5 reported his seatbelt failing, being thrown forward, striking his head on something. He reported that passenger LS6 ‘flew past me’ toward the front of the airplane. After the airplane stopped the passenger across from him was lying on the floor (no longer in his seatbelt). He attempted to drag him out of the airplane but could not move him. He then ‘saw fire toward the front, just beyond the turret’ and evacuated the airplane behind passenger RS5 who had opened the aft, right door. Passenger LS6 reported that he briefly lost consciousness and ‘found [himself] lying at the front’ of the waist gunners’ area. It was extremely hot and he saw light to the rear of the airplane from the open door. He crawled to the door and jumped out of the airplane into fire and aviation fuel.”

Though it wasn’t required, 9-0-9 had a load master (“LM” in the report), who helped paying passengers find their seats and fasten their belts and make crew briefings to them.

“Prior to impact at the front of the airplane, the LM stated that he ‘sat down right on the turret and I just held on. I was blacked out. Whenever I guess I woke up… I was not sitting on the turret anymore.’ His leg was stuck on something and passenger RS1 helped him free it. He realized he could not evacuate through the tail because of the fire so he ‘pushed the plexiglass out and I jumped. I don’t even remember looking.’ Passenger LS1 followed the LM out the window behind the pilot and passenger RS1 followed her. They all reported exiting onto a storage tank for de-icing fluid. Passenger RS1…reported fracturing his left foot while transitioning from the tank to the ground.”

The NTSB’s factual report doesn’t attempt to draw any conclusions, merely to present the evidence it has gathered in its investigation. It’s the data that the Board will use in issuing its final report at some point in the future, at which time it will most likely present statements of probable cause.


B-17 'Just Right' - History

Aircraft History
Built by Boeing at Seattle. Delivered to the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-17C Flying Fortress serial number 40-2045. Ferried overseas across the Pacific to the Philippines.

Wartime History
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group (7th BG), 14th Bombardment Squadron (14th BS). No known nickname or nose art.

Mission History
On December 10, 1941 took off from San Marcelino Airfield piloted by Captain Colin P. Kelly, Jr. as one of six B-17s bound for Clark Field to stage for a mission. Only three landed at 7:30am this bomber plus B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel and B-17D 40-3086 piloted by Montgomery. The other three did not land fearing a Japanese air raid.

On the ground, this B-17 was only partially armed with three 600 pound bombs before taking off again at at 9:30am in haste fearing another Japanese air raid and was one of four B-17s on a mission to bomb Japanese ships off Aparri and Vigan on northern Luzon. During the night, this convoy had been spotted and earlier that morning was bombed during the first American bombing mission of the Pacific War.

Over Aparri, B-17D 40-3091 piloted by Lt. Schaetzel spotted enemy transports and released his bombs from 25,000' before being jumped by Zeros and diving down to 7,000'. Arriving over Aparri next, this B-17 arrived over the ships and pilot Kelly saw no targets and proceeded south towards Vigan where Kelly spotted heavy cruiser Ashigara (falsely claimed to be Battleship Haruna). Bombardier Cpl Meyer Levin salvoed all three bombs from 22,000' and claimed one hit and observed a seaplane taking off from warship. In fact, no damage was sustained to Ashigara or any vessel and no battleship was part of the invasion force.

Before landing at Clark Field, this B-17 was intercepted by A6M2 Zeros from the Tainan Kōkūtai including Saburo Sakai. During the first firing pass, the Zeros hit the nose section with gunfire that damaged the pilot's instrument panel and killed SSgt Delehanty instantly when the top of his head was blown off. Afterwards, the same Zeros made repeated firing passes and started a fire in the bomb bay that engulfed the rear of the bomber.

Heavily damaged, Kelly ordered the rest of the crew to bail out while the two pilots held the bomber level. Several of the crew were strafed by the Zeros as they descended but all landed unhurt with the exception of Bean who was hit by a bullet in the ankle from the strafing.

Meanwhile, the B-17's two right engines were inoperative when an explosion blew co-pilot Robbins out of the observation dome, but he was able to open his parachute and landed safely. As the stricken bomber descended, it exploded again and impacted the ground roughly six miles east of Clark Field near Mount Arayat. Pilot Kelly was killed in the final explosion or on impact. The rest of the surviving crew landed in the vicinity of Clark Field and quickly returned to duty.

Recovery of Remains
After the crash, Kelly's body was found outside the bomber, ejected during the crash or explosion. Delehanty's remains were found inside the aircraft. Both were recovered and postwar transported to the United States for permanent burial.

Wreckage
The nose section of the B-17 was burned out. Afterwards, Filipino youth Daniel Dizon visited the crash site and made an ink drawing of the bomber and took a photograph of the wreckage. He also recovered a junction box from the radio compartment.

Memorials
Kelly was officially declared dead December 10, 1941. For this mission, Kelly was posthumously nominated for a Medal of Honor, but instead earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Afterwards, he was regarded as America's first war hero and the legend of his exploits grew, including the claim that after ordering his crew to bail out, he dove the stricken bomber into an enemy ship (this is not true).

Postwar, he was permanently buried at Madison Oak Ridge Cemetery in Madison, Florida. His grave includes the epitaph: "To Honor Colin Kelly First American Hero of World War II 1915 1941 Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends." Across from the courthouse in Madison, Florida is "The Four Freedoms Monument" dedicated to the memory of World War II hero, Captain Colin P. Kelley, Jr. dedicated on June 14, 1944 and sponsored by the Madison County Memorial Post No. 88 of the American Legion.

At Clark Air Force Base, there is a memorial plaque and bust of Kelly. A painting "Captain Colin Kelly" was displayed inside the Kelly Theater, named in his honor until the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to the USAF Museum. A white marble monument with three angles and brass plaque dedicated to Colin Kelly is located at Madison, Florida.

Delehanty was permanently buried at Long Island National Cemetery, plot H, grave 9431.

Levin was hailed as the first Jewish-American war hero and "Meyer Levin Day" was celebrated in Brooklyn, NY with a commemorative plaque given to his parents by local politicians. Afterwards, he was evacuated to Australia and continued to fly combat missions as a bombardier assigned to the 43rd Bombardment Group (43rd BG) in New Guinea until he went Missing In Action (MIA) on January 7, 1941 aboard B-17F 41-24383 that ditched into the Gulf of Papua. In Australia, he had an Australian wife and fathered a son. Levin earned the Distinguished Flying Cross (DSC), Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters and Purple Heart posthumously. He is memorialized on the tablets of the missing at Manila American Cemetery.

Relatives
Colin P. "Corky" Kelly, III (son of Collin P. Kelly)
Attended and graduated from West Point, became an Episcopal priest and served as Assistant Chaplain at the Point. After retiring from the Military, he became pastor of an Episcopal church in New Mexico during which time he was honored by invitation from the 1996 104th U.S. Congress to give the opening prayer.

Eugene Eisenberg adds:
"In 1942, I met Kelly's wife and son Corky. I became very close to the Kelly family and also Corky. I also spent time with Bob Altman, Joe Bean, Willard Money and James Halkyard who is still alive today in Washington State. I have also have the original drawing by Dizon who made the original drawing and took a photograph of the wreckage in December 1941. I also have several pictures of the original crew taken on Midway Airfield September 5, 1941.

References
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-17C Flying Fortress 40-2045
"2045 (30th BS, 19th BG) shot down by Japanese fighters Dec 10, 1941 Luzon, Philippines. First USAAF B-17 lost in actual combat. Capt Colin P. Kelly killed."
Fortress Against The Sun (2001) pages 65-68, 71, 142, 242, 314, 372, 382, 397, 401, 450, 457
December 8, 1941 (2003) pages 137, 237, 408, 435, 517, 537, 543, 554
Leyte Calling (1945) pages 14-15:
"I helped load the bombs into his [Kelly's] Fortress and scribbled my name on three of them. I don't think anybody else signed the bombs because everyone else was busier than I was. Anyway, I don't know yet why i signed the bombs. I just wanted something to do, I guess."
Air Force Magazine "Valor: Colin Kelly" by John L. Frisbee June 1994, Vol. 77, No. 6
Other sources state this B-17 was assigned to the 30th Bomb Squadron
"Legend of Colin Kelly" painting by Robert Taylor
"Captain Colin Kelly" painting was displayed at the Kelly Theater at Clark Air Force Base, after the 1992 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, this painting was transported to USAF Museum
Ken’s Men Against The Empire Volume I (2015) pages 109-110 (Levin/Kelly), 313 (Levin), 395 (index Kelly), 396 (index Levin)
FindAGrave - Collin Purdie Kelly, Jr. (photo, Madison, Florida monument photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Delehanty (grave photo)
FindAGrave - Sgt William J Delehanty (grave photo)
Thanks to Tony Feredo and Eugene Eisenberg for additional information

Contribute Information
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?


What the B17 Taught Us About Checklists

All of us know the afamed B-17 used during WWII, which helped to win the war. You probably didn’t know, however, that the B-17 was the first aircraft to get a checklist!

This came about when, on the first B-17 flight, 3 men we’re seriously injured, and a few later died, when the aircraft stalled shortly after takeoff. After further investigation, it was found that the Captain had left the elevator lock on, and the aircraft was unresponsive to pitch control.

At the time, in 1935, the aircraft was challenging a few other companies for large government contracts that could mean either the demise or the success of Boeing. Therefore, Boeing set out to find out what they could do.

During a major think-tank session, it was determined that the pilots needed a checklist. It wasn’t a knock to the pilots, or that the aircraft was too hard to fly, rather the aircraft was just too complex for a pilots memory.

The first checklist was born!

So, as a flight simulator pilot, how should you use checklists in your virtual flying? Read on.

Many people have the notion that a checklist is supposed to be checked off, one item at a time, as they are done. This is time consuming, distracting, and potentially more dangerous than not having a checklist!

Throw out those old ideas, and clear your mind for something that works!

Here is my method for using checklists, that I think you’ll find very useful!

  1. Memorize your checklists to the best of your ability. Some may use simple acronyms, and others just flat out memorize item-by-item. While memorizing a checklist, it may be best to do the old “step-by-step” method and gradually work your way out of needing to see everything on paper.
  2. As you move through memorizing the checklist items, it’s important to simply start doing things because they are in your memory. Your memory-to-kinetic connection is much faster than the “What’s next? Read. Look. Do. Back to Checklist” way of doing things. A proactive method of doing checklists is much better than reactive.
  3. As you begin to memorize the items for certain phases of the flight, soon you won’t need the checklist at all. Does this mean that you shouldn’t still read it? Not at all! Now the checklist is used to VERIFY what you have done. I can tell you right now that things get busy and you’ll often forget something. Although you may think you know it, ALWAYS VERIFY. Very, very few pilots are perfect, and those that are use checklists.
  4. When you finally have a checklist memorized, you’ll do all the items, THEN you’ll grab the checklist and VERIFY everything has been done.

I challenge you to try out this method of using checklists. Feel free to report back with your findings. Doing checklists this way will certainly improve the speed of checklists in your virtual flight deck.

Oh yeah, and the B-17? After the accident the Boeing company was threatened with collapse. By implementing the checklists, they flew 1.8 million hours with 18 B-17s without incident, proved to the government they were safe, and eventually nearly 13,000 were built. What is more telling is the images of these four engined, resilient monster fending off the evil forces of the Axis Powers.

And to think that this aircraft could have been eliminated from it’s place in history because they continued not to use checklists.

This article was posted in AOA, Blog

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Vitamin B17 Laetrile Side Effects

As we always say, too much of a good thing may sometimes backfire. While apricot seeds are great for killing cancer cells, take only what is recommended by the experts above. Excessive ingestion of vitamin B17 or laetrile may cause side effects such as:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Loss of balance and difficulty walking
  • Temporary confusion

How many apricot seeds is too many? For an average adult body size, it is estimated that eating upwards of 50 apricot kernels might be fatal.

An apricot user shared that for his body weight of 320 lbs, he took 50 seeds two times a day and that worked for him in removing a pre-cancerous pancreas cyst. (You can read his story below.)


‘This is part of our heritage and our history’: Vintage WWII bombers land in St. George

ST. GEORGE — With military precision, two World War II-era bombers landed at nearly the exact time they were expected to touchdown at the St. George Regional Airport.

B-17 “Flying Fortress” heavy bomber – Sentimental Journey – was the first to land in St. George Thursday. A crowd of more than 25 came out to see the vintage WWII airplane touchdown. St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

A B-25 “Mitchell” bomber, Maid in the Shade, and a B-17 “Flying Fortress” heavy bomber, Sentimental Journey, landed at the Western Aviation Warbird Museum at the airport Thursday for a three-day stopover during the Mesa-based Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force 2020 Flying Legends of Victory Tour.

Travis Major, CAF airbase leader and pilot commander on the B-17, said he is always proud to have the opportunity to show off and fly two of the wing’s 173 aircraft.

“This is part of our heritage and our history,” Major said. “There is a very precious history with each one of these airplanes. It’s a history that is perishable. Every year we get further and further away from it, but this is an opportunity to take these extremely rare airplanes out and around the country.”

Between July 2 and Sept. 27, one or both planes will visit 18 towns for multiple days and offer flights to the public, with an extended flight scheduled for July Fourth over Southern Utah. Aircraft tours are also available for $15 per person and $25 per family.

When asked what is like to command these beasts, Major didn’t miss a beat.

B-25 “Mitchell” bomber – Maid in the Shade – fires up its twin Wright R-2600 “Cyclone” radial engines, with 1,850 horsepower each at takeoff. Photo taken at previous landing in Rawlins, Wy., July 11, 2016 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

“I think the beasts command you.,” he said.

Relics of a different time, each plane doesn’t use modern technology to get airborne, remain airborne and land safely. From the moment you fire up the engine and pull the chocks on the landing gear, Major said, you have to fly each bomber minute-by-minute until you shut down.

With a max takeoff weight of 65,500 pounds and a crew of 10, the B-17’s four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone Turbo-Supercharged radial engines produced 1,200 horsepower each. On typical models, it fielded 13 .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns and carried between 4,500-9,600 pounds of ordnance.

Fully loaded, the B-17G weights in as heavy as a modern regional jet today.

“During World War II, it was the biggest thing we had,” Major said.

Along with the joy flying both vintage aircraft and reverence to their history is the passing along what these aircraft did for America’s freedom to children, he added.

“That is part of our message to educate, inspire and honor,” Major said. “At this time, more than ever in recent years, it is so important that people understand our heritage and our history that has made it possible for us to be here today.”

Someone in a young person’s family may have had a part to play in the war effort. The goal, Major said, is to “bring that home to them and give them some of the history they may not have had.”

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery.

Vintage military aircraft fly overhead in Southern Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Satter, St. George News

Vintage military aircraft fly overhead in Southern Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Satter, St. George News

Vintage military aircraft fly overhead in Southern Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Satter, St. George News

Vintage military aircraft fly overhead in Southern Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Satter, St. George News

Vintage military aircraft fly overhead in Southern Utah, July 2020 | Photo courtesy of Mike Satter, St. George News

B-25 “Mitchell” bomber – Maid in the Shade, St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

B-17 "Flying Fortress" heavy bomber – Sentimental Journey – was the first to land in St. George Thursday. A crowd of more than 25 came out to see the vintage WWII airplane touchdown. St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

B-17 "Flying Fortress" heavy bomber – Sentimental Journey – was the first to land in St. George Thursday. A crowd of more than 25 came out to see the vintage WWII airplane touchdown. St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

B-25 “Mitchell” bomber – Maid in the Shade – at takeoff in St. George, Utah, July 3, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

B-25 “Mitchell” bomber – Maid in the Shade, St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Gerard Dauphinais, St. George News

B-25 “Mitchell” bomber – Maid in the Shade – fires up its twin Wright R-2600 “Cyclone” radial engines, with 1,850 horsepower each at takeoff. Photo taken at previous landing in Rawlins, Wy., July 11, 2016 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News

B-17 "Flying Fortress" heavy bomber – Sentimental Journey – was the first to land in St. George Thursday. A crowd of more than 25 came out to see the vintage WWII airplane touchdown. St. George, Utah, July 2, 2020 | Photo by David Louis, St. George News


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Bomber crashed on its first mission to Germany

The plane that crashed off the coast of Kent - B-17 42-31243 - was taking part in its first mission and was on its way to Germany when the crew were forced to abandon it.

The plane was piloted by Alan Eckhart and co-piloted by Elton Jenkins.

Other crew members included navigator George Arvanites, radio operator Fred Kuehl, gunners Edward Madak and Michael Musashe and bombardier Robert Meagher.

Making up the 10-man crew was flight engineer Francis Nuener, tail gunner Nyle Smith while Angelo Tambe operated the ball turret gun.

On 01 Dec 43 mission #85 to Solingen, Germany, B-17G 42-31243 was ditched in the English Channel at Pegwell Bay when the bomber ran out of fuel.

The entire 10 man crew was picked by the British Air Sea Rescue and taken to RAF Manston.

All ten men returned to duty after the crash.

It was piloted by Second Lieutenant Alan Eckhart of the 303rd bomb group and co-piloted by Second Lieutenant Elton Jenkins.

The bomber crashed when it ran out of fuel in December 1943.

The 10-man crew escaped unscathed. They were later rescued and were all taken to RAF Manston in the north east of the county.

Kent coastal warden and metal detectorist Tony Ovenden, 64 - who raised the alarm - said: 'It's just so wrong, it's stealing our heritage. For your typical B17 collector that site is an Aladdin's cave.

'It's probably one of the few sites in Europe where a B17 is accessible by foot and that's the problem.

'When I find things in the bay I conserve our heritage. He is stealing it, taking it for personal gratification.'

Services Archaeology and Heritage Association branded the looter 'disgraceful and illegal'.

They added in a statement: 'We have been contacted about the looting of a B17 Flying Fortress on the Sandwich flats.

'Witnesses saw an individual in the water wearing a wetsuit trying to remove parts of the aircraft.

'Closer inspection of the B17 that it has been stripped. The fuel tanks have gone, fuel pipes and wiring also missing. There was evidence of tools being used to hack away at the right wing.

'Looks like this individual has been systematically looting the B17 using a trolley to cart pieces off.

'It's illegal under The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 which prohibits entering and tampering with wrecked military vessels or aircraft.'

A metal detectorist saw a looter stripping the plane (pictured) for parts before loading it into a trolley on Saturday

Closer inspection by officials revealed the plane (pictured) had been 'stripped' by an individual who 'systematically looted' it

The Boeing B-17 Bomber: The Flying Fortress

A Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress named 'Sentimental Journey' at the 1997 Confederate Air Force airshow

The Boeing B-17 was a four-engine heavy bomber developed in the US in the 1930s that became symbolic of the country's air power during the Second World War.

Looking to replace Martin B-10, the USAAC (United States Army Air Corps) tendered a proposal for a multi-engine bomber that could reach an altitude of 10,000 ft and reinforce the country's air capabilities.

Competing against two other aircraft manufacturers at the time - Douglas and Martin - to build 200 bombers, the Boeing entry outperformed both competitors.

While Boeing lost out on the initial contract to Douglas because the company's prototype crashed, the USAAC ordered a further 13 for evaluation, before it was eventually introduced in 1938 after numerous design changes.

Even before the war, the B-17 received recognition, with the nickname 'Flying Fortress' coined by a Seattle Times reporter.

In January 1938, group commander Colonel Robert Olds flew a YB-17 from the United States's east coast to its west coast, setting a transcontinental record of 13 hours 27 minutes.

He also broke west-to-east coast record on his return, trip in 11 hours 1 minute, averaging 245 mph.

But the bomber was mainly used during the Second World War in precision daylight bombing campaigns against military and industrial targets to weaken Nazi Germany.

In early 1940 the RAF entered into an agreement with the US to be provided with 20 B-17Cs, which were given the service name Fortress I. But their initial missions over Germany were unsuccessful.

But they were widely used by American forces in the Pacific and in a succession of raids targeting German factories.

In February 1944, the B17s flew a vital mission to destroy the factories that kept the Luftwaffe flying, in what was termed 'Big Week', and helped secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for the invasion of France in 1944.

The Luftwaffe found it easier to attack a Flying Fortress head on and Americans coined the phrase 'Bandits at 12 o'clock high' as a result.

German studies revealed that on average 20 hits with 20mm shells were required to gun down a B17. Forty B-17s were captured by the Luftwaffe.

In all, 3,500 B17s were involved in bombing raids on factories in Germany. 244 planes were lost in just a week but the back of the factories producing for the Luftwaffe were fatally broken.

The B-17s were also used in the War in the Pacific earlier in the Second World War where it conducted raids against Japanese shipping and airfield sites.

Many crew members who flew in B-17s received military honours, with 17 receiving the highest military decoration awarded by the United States, the Medal of Honour.

The B-17 went on to become the third-most produced bomber of all time, behind the four-engined Consolidated B-24 Liberator and the multirole, twin-engined Junkers Ju 88, and dropped more bombs than any other aircraft in World War II.

The plane was used in every World War II combat zone and by the end of production in 1945, Boeing had built over 12,000 bombers.

It dropped approximately 640,000 tonnes of bombs over Nazi Germany, over a third of the estimated 1.5 million tons of bombs dropped in total by US aircraft.

One of the most most famous B-17s, the Memphis Belle, was immortalised in a 1970 Hollywood movie of the same name. The bomber also featured in earlier films such as 'Air Force' and 'Twelve O'Clock High'.

As of October 2019, there are 9 B-17 aircraft that remain airworthy, although none of them have ever flown in combat.

Dozens more remain in storage or on display is museums - the oldest being a D-series that flown in combat in the Pacific on the first day of World War II.


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