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WWII-era bomber crashes in Illinois, all safe

June 13, 2011|By Hugh Lessig, hlessig@dailypress.com | 247-7821
A vintage World War II-era bomber that has visited Hampton Roads appeared all but destroyed Monday after it made an emergency landing in an Illinois cornfield and caught fire.

The Chicago Tribune reported that seven crew members and volunteers walked from the B-17 Flying Fortress without serious injury after the pilot reported an engine fire.

It happened southeast of Aurora Municipal Airport.

The B-17, nicknamed “Liberty Belle,” was on its way to the Indianapolis Regional Airport and was due to arrive at about noon. It was expected to offer flights to the public over the Father’s Day weekend, the newspaper reported.

In August 2009, the Liberty Belle made a visit to Chesapeake Regional Airport, offering WWII veterans and their families a trip back into trip. The interior of the plane was scrawled with the names of those who have taken a 30-minute ride.

Gerry Yagen of Virginia Beach, a pilot of WWII aircraft, spent time on the phone and trading emails Monday, trying to learn more about the crash. He noted that the pilot landed successfully, without crashing, and the aircraft might have been spared had the fire not spread.

“The pilot made a fantastic landing,” said Yagen, of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.

The Liberty Belle was built toward the end of WWII and never saw combat. But it is representative of the workmanlike bomber that flew countless missions over Europe and elsewhere. It is owned by the non-profit Liberty Foundation.

At the time of its visit in 2009, the Liberty Belle was one of only 14 B-17s that were still flying.

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