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Tom Cleaver
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9-0-9 has crashed

October 2, 2019 · in News · · 34 Comments

Sad news. Flew with her 10 years ago.

What's a real "joy killer" is the thought it was some 70-year old $5 part that failed, as a warbird restorer friend told me a few years ago was going to be the cause of the end of warbirds. The entire fleet was one wheel crack away from grounding till someone remembered that Neptunes (which are still used as firebombers) use the same wheel. "Chewing gum and baling wire" fixes like this aren't gonna last forever.

FURTHER UPDATE: struck a building on landing. This fits with the report of the last person to see her airborne, that one engine was out and she was "very low."

Sadly, doesn't rule out the "70 year old $5 part" hypothesis. This airplane is meticulously maintained. What happened to that engine?

Reader reactions:
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34 responses

  1. Such a shame! I hope the 6 injured do well.

  2. So sad. I have seen this plane twice and always loved the nose art on the plane. Prayers to the two fallen and for hope the injured are healed.

  3. Very sad to hear this. I got a flight with her in 2011. A real thrill.

  4. We should do a 9-0-9 group build in honor of her amd her crews life. Especially the crew.

  5. Damn. This may sound callous but I'm not happy to see warbirds flying as beautiful as they look. I heard there were only injuries so that's a great thing. Hoping they have a speedy recovery

  6. very sad to hear that.

  7. oh i heard that this morning and couldn't find out which one crashed...very sad they are going down like flies...i flew in collings b-25 tondelayo years back...very sad news indeed

  8. I have been around this very plane as have many of you. Inside and out. I personally know some of the people who have worked on this plane. They are friends of mine.

    This is so sad.

    My thoughts and prayers go out to all that have been affected by this tragedy.

    However we do not need to fan rumors about what caused this to happen. They are not commenting about the cause because it’s still under investigation.

    At this point it needs to be known that they do NOT know what caused it to happen.

    To say something about a $5 part that is 70 years old is ridiculous. I’d like to see anyone who has any Aviation related part for sale at $5, other than maybe a rivet ?

    I know for a fact that these planes are meticulously maintained. We will know more about the true cause once they reveal their findings in the official report.

    Until then it’s merely speculation.

    The facts are that the plane slid off the runway after landing at 09:54. It caught fire after it slid into a small building where snow removal equipment was stored. It had just taken off and was having problems gaining altitude. There are fatalities. One person on the ground was injured.

    To say anything more is simply a rumor until confirmed. They are not commenting on what “might” have happened since it’s still an active investigation. The media might even have some of the initial information wrong. It would not be the first time.

    My condolences go out to those affected. This is not good ...

    • I meant a part that cost $5 70 years ago. And they do fail. One of the recent Mustang crashes was finally figured out - a flap actuating screw failed, which is why the flap failed to deploy.

      All these airplanes were designed to last maybe 100 flying hours, the average life of a WW2 combat airplane. So failures of little things 70 years and several thousand flying hours later is not surprising. In fact, three warbird restorers I know have already included that in their list of why they'd be looking for if they were inspecting the crash.

      • In my previous life I was an automotive machinist. I used to conduct metal testing, "magna flux, and zy-glow" to check for cracks in various metals, so I am quite aware of how a metal part can fail. This is the nature of the beast.

        By reading your original posting it sounded like you were blaming the fault on a simple $5 aviation part... which is unheard of in today's world.

        You are correct with the statement about the expected life of a WW2 aircraft. They were considered "disposable". This is even more true of some late war Axis aircraft, as they even quit using corrosion control measures during their last ditch efforts. They needed planes and didn't care about how long they were expected to last.

        Which Mustang crash are you referring to ? There has not been many thank God.

        I watched a very interesting documentary on the one that crashed in Reno back in 2011. It was on TV several nights ago. This was the "Galloping Ghost" and it was flown by Jimmy Leeward.

        The investigators concentrated on a failed elevator trim tab and found the cause to be the threads had stripped. The trim tab was seen to fall away in several photographs that were taken just moments before the impact.

        Before the official inquiry results were released, there was some "talk" going around about how the pilot's seat could have dropped causing the pilot to lose control. They thought the G forces caused the seat to drop when the pilot pulled back on the joystick. This was rumored to have caused the pilot to lose control. But this was not the case. There was another metal failure elsewhere.

        This is why we need to be careful (and truthful) about what we say. It can cause others to believe something that is not a fact.

  9. The Reno crash is what I was trying to remember. Definitely the result of a "$5 part."

    • Here's more information about the crash of Leeward's P-51 Mustang at Reno, according to the NTSB. There was more to it than just a "$5 part"... This is copied verbatim from "FLYING".

      "According to the investigative agency's final report, degenerated locknut inserts initially triggered the loosening of Galloping Ghost's trim tab screws, which would go on to cause instability in the system that made the tab unable to withstand the forces of the high speed flight.

      As the 70-year-old airplane raced at speeds above 500 mph, the unsound trim tab eventually succumbed to flutter, the NTSB said, causing 74-year-old Leeward to lose control of the airplane and crash into the VIP area in front of the bleachers.

      In addition to faulty parts, the NTSB’s final report also cites “undocumented and untested major modifications” as a contributing factor to the crash. Such modifications are nearly universal on Unlimited Category race planes."

      • I was dye penetrant and magnaflux certified for aerospace way back too. I'm a bit ignorant about warbirds but when they are restored to flying condition, does the FAA get into any certification?

      • The FAA lists a lot of Warbirds as "Experimental" and I am sure that a lot of home builds and Reno racers fall under that category. Or fly at your own risk.

        I might add that the age of the pilot might have been a contributing factor. 74 yr old pilots with a medical certificates are a reality. If your racing at Reno and all the other pilots agree to compete with you fine. Last I heard if your going to fly commercially the mandatory retirement age is 60 ...when your responsible for the care and safety of paying passengers. There is a good reason for that.

        Several P-51s crashes have occurred in which the only recognizable piece of the aircraft was the engine block. Some accidents involve folks with a little coin and the pilot was not a youngster. With little for the examiners to prove or disprove on the condition of the pilot and the a/c. As the saying goes "Youth is wasted on the young" as the ravages of time take there toll on the body. There are bold pilots but, there are no old bold pilots...

  10. Damn...I hated to hear this - I guess I won't be seeing her anymore at New Smyrna for her annual 'check-up's" any longer. This is a real bummer to get this sad news. 🙁

    Edit: I just watched a news report that included radio transmission from one of the crew that stated they had a problem with No. 4 engine - losing one engine would not necessarily cause the airplane to lose control and crash - seems to me there has to be "more to the story" - we shall stay tuned for further updates and a more detailed explanation.

  11. Sad to here of this , especially with the loss of life.

  12. RIP and best wishes to the families on this tragic loss

  13. As an old retired Fighter Pilot and life-long airplane nut, I really hate to see things like this happen. That said, they aren't making anymore B-17's, Mustangs, or any old warbirds for that matter (unless you want a FlugWerks Fw 190 or the custom built Spitfires from the UK). It reminds me of the B-26 Marauder that crashed in Midland, TX about 10-15 years ago. It was the LAST flyable B-26. The same thing happened with the POF Northrup Flying Wing a few months ago. Once they are gone, they are gone forever...basically extinct. I know I will take some heat for this, but we shouldn't fly them them til they die...especially the last of a type. We need to save them to fire a young kid's (or old man's) dreams...

    • So true! Hear! Hear! I've dropped my further involvement with PoF over the stupidity around the N9M.

    • Profile Photo
      said on October 3, 2019

      I agree entirely. I'm sure that fully airworthy, functional flying aircraft replicas ( from the outside at least) could be built so that the "original aircraft" could be kept for museums and static display.

  14. That's really sad news. My prey goes for all members and their families.

  15. I think any of us model builders admired the realism put into the restoration of this warbird, especially us who build model airplanes. She was gorgeous !

    Every so often 9-0-9 made its way near my home in the NW, giving my a little thrill every time it would make a rare flyby near my home. Occasionally I even made it out to the airport where it was selling rides and managed to get a few nice pictures. I loved the sound of those big radials rumbling as they got near.

    Its a tragedy to have it destroyed like this and taking lives with it.

    I have to admit that every time one of these classics goes down I wonder if its worth flying them. Its fun to see them fly, but its better having them around.

  16. Is it worth flying them…………that is a double edged sword. I’m not sure there will ever be a complete consensus of agreement.

    Forty something years ago the Warbird community, and I’m using that term loosely, was perceived as ‘Good Ole’ boys playing with expensive toys. This in a lot of cases, was the truth.
    Today’s Warbird community is completely different. Yes, there unfortunately are those that tend to be a little more on the outside of the envelope, but for the most part the majority are trying to promote History and challenge the future generations to dream. To motivate them into achieving a higher level than just a basic education. To remember those that went before us, those that wrote the history books.

    I am fortunate enough to be a volunteer with a part of this community. I am fortunate enough to have hands on with an Aircraft that is over 70 years old. I cannot explain in words the feeling of helping a WWII veteran visit with an aircraft of the type and model he flew during the war. Of seeing their eyes light up bright and the smile on their faces. The look on their faces when they see it flying past or better, the satisfaction you can see they have after taking a ride in one.

    For the past five years, I have been involved in the annual end of the year inspections and maintenance. We inspect the entire airplane from head to toe, twice. First by one of the maintenance crew then by a certified inspector. All control connections, hydraulic connections, control surfaces, etc. I know, there are a LOT of screws that need to be removed and re-installed by hand. Power tools are not allowed to be used on the fuselage. I’ve been a part of replacing cylinder heads and pistons, re-building hydraulic cylinders for flaps and an Oleo strut to name a few. Everything we touch is on a check list and logged in a book. Nothing gets missed due to complacency or neglect.

    At the end of the day, I feel safe getting in the back seat. I feel it is safe enough to put my family and friends in the back seat.

    I won’t speculate on the cause of 909’s demise. There are a multitude of reason that could have been the reason(s) and I was not witness to the event. Even if I had been there I'm not sure I could completely ascertain the cause(s).

    I feel sorrow and loss for those that were involved and will not be with us anymore. May those that were hurt heal well and those that perished rest in eternal peace.

    • Very well put James...

      I have seen how these "flying museums" have brought many veterans back to the days of their youth during my multiple visits around these planes that we love and cherish...

      You can tell when it happens. It's almost like they go through some sort of transformation right before your eyes ! These little frail old men suddenly become more animated and lively, and their voice changes sometimes. The look in their eyes and the stories they tell us is priceless.

      It also wonderful to see a small child's face light up in amazement when they have been inspired by these planes and the crews who operate them.

      I'm with you as far as keeping them flying. It's one thing to look at a caged animal in a zoo... and quite another seeing it in it's natural environment. These planes are the same. You can never experience the sights, sounds and even the smells of a Warbird as it is sitting in a museum. How many times do they start up or even taxi a plane in the museums you have visited ? I can name them on one hand.

      Most people don't realize that the majority of these airframes are not original. Corrosion and metal fatigue has taken it's toll over the years. On the majority of these restored flying War Birds, (not all mind you), about the only thing that is original is the data plate. The rest has been faithfully hand crafted by master metal workers with love.

      My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the families, friends and loved ones of all who were affected by this tragedy in one form or another.

      • If there's ten of them, fine. When there's one left, like the N9M, no. Some fool's desire to "live his dream" and fly it doesn't trump the greater good of preserving it for the future.

        • There you go Tom, this validates my lead in sentence and I might agree with you on that particular one. Never the less, you are entitled to your opinion and it has valid merit.

          • Agreed... This is definitely a two edged sword. Both sides of the fence have their points, both good and bad. For now my concern is that of the human costs with loss of life. Nothing is as sacred as that, no matter what your beliefs on this subject of flying are.

            This is a tragedy in that we lost both man and machine.

  17. A sad and tragic event. My thoughts for everyone involved.

  18. For those keeping up with it, the other Foundation planes are heading home.

    From the B-25 on departure: · on youtube

    @tcinla, @lgardner, thought you guys might want to hear this.

    • Thanks James. @jamesb

      I just watched this... you can feel the deep personal connection the B-25 pilot had with the loss of his fellow tour members. You can hear it in his voice. So sad...

      I just happened to video them all on the day they left for this years tour, as they all started up, taxied, and left.

      "909", "Witchcraft", "Tondelayo", "Toulouse Nuts", and "Alabama Rammer Jammer"...

      Little did I know this would be the last time I would see the 909. She will be missed by many. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who were affected by this tragedy.

      My understanding is that the B-25 will be followed back here by the rest shortly. I'll keep you posted via PM.

  19. So sorry. Took my boys to see it in 2012, and one up for a ride.

    5 attached images. Click to enlarge.

  20. Here is a quick update from the Collings Foundation Executive Director:

    "Dear supporters,

    Please join the Collings Foundation in our thoughts and prayers with those who were on the tragic flight of the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” on Wednesday, October 2nd. We will be forever grateful to the heroic efforts of the first responders at Bradley International Airport and the assistance of all local agencies in the days after the crash.

    The Collings Foundation team has been and remains fully cooperative with officials to determine the cause of the crash and we will comment further when facts and details become available. We have suspended the Wings of Freedom Tour for the remainder of the 2019 season and the aircraft have returned to our winter maintenance base in Florida.

    The mission of the Collings Foundation remains steadfast in the goal of making history come alive as we have for over 30 years. Since 1989, the Wings of Freedom Tour has touched the lives of millions, as we have made visits to over 3600 communities in that time. Tens of thousands have flown aboard our Living History Flight Experiences (LHFE) on the B-17, B-24, B-25, and A-1E and flight training on the TP-51C, TF-51D, and TP-40N. In the past week we have received many stories on how powerful and life-changing the tour has been for families and as we move forward, and we expect there are thousands more who have been touched by the Wings of Freedom Tour.

    In the coming months, federal agencies will be reviewing the LHFE program for not only our organization, but many other organizations nationwide who continue to fly vintage aircraft as a part of their educational mission. As these reviews take place, we feel it is important for the voices of those impacted by the Wings of Freedom Tour over the years to be heard. We need to let federal agencies know that the LHFE program is important to you and other American citizens as an educational tool.

    Please take a moment to add your comments to the current docket regarding the renewal of the Collings Foundation LHFE program with the FAA at the Federal Register. You may do so online at the following link:

    As you write your comment, please review the tips for submitting effective comments from at

    Thank you for your support of our living history mission.

    Best regards,
    Rob Collings
    Executive Director"

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