It was filed by the families of three people who were killed and five people who were injured in the Oct. 2, 2019, crash at Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport.
“To obtain technical experience and expertise, the National Transportation Safety Board made the Collings Foundation a party to the pending accident investigation,” Hunter Chaney, a foundation spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “In that role, the foundation is prohibited, both by the Certification of Party Representative and by federal regulations, from commenting on this matter and disseminating information that is the subject of this investigation.”
The B-17 bomber crashed shortly after takeoff, killing seven of the 13 people aboard, including the pilot and co-pilot. Eleven of the people who were in the plane were passengers flying as part of a program sponsored by the Collings Foundation, which restores and exhibits vintage aircraft. According to the lawsuit, the foundation charged $450 to fly aboard the aircraft.
The Collings Foundation received a special exemption from Congress to be allowed to carry passengers in the vintage aircraft as long as it met certain safety standards.
Even so, the lawsuit alleges that the foundation failed to ensure that passengers were aware of the risks involved in traveling aboard the vintage aircraft. It also noted that some of the passengers sat on the floor of the plane since the aircraft lacked adequate seating. Some of the plane’s seat belts weren’t working properly, which left passengers vulnerable when the plane crashed. Passengers, the lawsuit alleged, also weren’t given a safety briefing while onboard.
The lawsuit said that passengers weren’t told that the day before the fatal crash, the plane had experienced trouble with two of the engines on the right side of the plane. Those were the engines that malfunctioned the day of the crash, forcing the plane to turn back shortly after it took off.
The plane circled back to the airport and hit several approach lights as the pilot attempted to land, the lawsuit said. Images of the crash on television and social media showed flames and huge plumes of black smoke at the site of the crash.
The victims included a retired police officer and the plane’s pilot and co-pilot. The oldest was 75, the youngest 48.
The B-17 bomber, dubbed the “Flying Fortress,” was at the airport as part of a special display of vintage aircraft sponsored by the Collings Foundation. As part of the event, members of the public could fly in the B-17 in exchange for a donation. The plane was built in 1944 and acquired by the foundation in 1986.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, the plane was involved in two previous incidents. In 1987, it overran a runway at an air show in western Pennsylvania, and in 1995, its landing gear failed to deploy at an event in Nebraska.