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West Seattle Herald
Seattle , Washington
June 24, 2011     West Seattle Herald
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June 24, 2011

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West Seattle Herald Friday, June 24, 2011 3 B-17 CRASH: 'Liberty Belle' flew over Seattle last April CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 the fuel ignited. He said the dra- To clarify, the Liberty Foun- dation had brought their B-17, a P-40 and a T-6 to that airfield for the weekend of flights. That Mon- day morning the P-40 had gotten a head start toward Indianapolis. The T-6 flew along side the B-17 with the intention of flying togeth- er to Indianapolis. "The T-6 was following us to Indianapolis, what we call a 'flight of two', a formation," Hess explained. Once the smoke was spotted, he and Sittig turned back toward the airport. "We were approximately seven miles away from the airport. We were practically lined up with one of their runways. Sittig was flying at that point. The T-6 pilot, Cullen Underwood, made the call 'that we were on fire. He said, 'Put it on the ground. Put it on the ground', very forcefully, which is not really a call you ever want to hear. "Even though we were only about two or three minutes from the runway, it was taken out of our mind at that point. Cullen is a very experienced pilot, familiar with that airplane, so we knew. We now call him our 'angel on our wing'. Without him, we may have pressed on to the airport and that could have turned out much worse." Hess was first to spot the field for the emergency landing. "In the cockpit where Settig was you can't see over the nose or across the cockpit very well. I saw better from my side and could see I had a great field. Set- tig discharged the fire-bottles on the number-two engine. The fire control panel is on his side. Mean- while, I shut down and feathered the number-two engine. We're able to put out an engine fire that way. "I had no worries about the air- plane getting down. I wanted to make sure there were no power lines. We were using all our hands on the controls because it's a very manual airplane. "We don't have a PA system but have two other crew members, including my wife Fran and Chuck who saw the fire in the wing. They got the passengers seated and briefed- 'Be ready for a landing and be ready to evacuate.' "Once we touched down we splashed through a little bit of mud. That was good for us. It slowed us down. The plane can handle it. It has big huge tires. They were used for taking off from Steve Shay Liberty Foundation volunteer and B-1 7 pilot Ron Oause stands under the wing of the Liberty Belle at Boeing Field last April when the plane offered flights over Seattle. An electrical fire onboard June 13 near Chicago resulted in a gentle emergency landing. Then the fuel caught on fire, destroy- ing the aircraft. No one was injured. soggy fields in the war. Unfortu- nately it didn't benefit those fire trucks. That was our big dilemma. We were basically helpless on our own. The fire was right at the fuel tank and we needed to get away from it. We did have the time to throw some bags out, a few min- utes. After that there was too much smoke. "We heard the fire trucks right away but the marshal determined the field was impassable. They were held at the edge of the field. We kind of raised a little cain. Bud shouted, 'C'Mon!' The fire mar- shal got a little upset. We were frustrated. I don't want to blow it out of proportion. The fire chief is thinking, 'Is there another way to get around the plane from another place in the field?' Once they get stuck they're no good to anybody. He had his job to do. At O'Hare (Airport) you've got trucks four wheeling to go anywhere to get to anything. This was a rural fire department. "I hope this event is not a black eye to the B-17 operators Its still one of the safest airplane's flying, as evidenced by its safety record. Its strong design gave us the abil- ity to land safely. "We've flown together for years and I had confidence in John we'd pull through and confidence in the plane," said Fran, his wife, who, again, was a crewmember dur- ing the fire. "Of course things run through your mind when you have an inflight fire. It's never nice to look out a window and see a fire the size of a volleyball start. Actu- ally it was one of the smoothest landings I ever had. There was no panic. You do what you have to do. Of course it's not far out of your mind thinking about your kids, but you handle it. You do what you need to do to land safe- ly. It's usually afterwards that you might stop to second guess. Tiered Money Market 0 65 % 0 7 APY* e .. APY* $250,000 - $499,999 $500,000 and above West Seattle 4022 SW Alaska 206-933-3091  [3 *Annual Percentage Yield current as of 5/31/11 and subject to change without notice. $100 minimum to open. Minimum balance to obtain APY specified above. Fees could reduce earnings. Member FDIC. RECESS MONKFy! Saturday, June 25, 1-3 PM It was aggravating to see all the news reports that the B-17 'crashed'", she said. "We landed. We didn't crash. "The one thing that struck me was that there were just trees and the cornfield and nothing really around it to tell that you were in a modern era. I was like, 'Wow. It must have been kind of what it looked like when they had to land off field in England during the war.' I'm sure a lot of them had to stand back and watch their plane burn." matic photos released on the news of the plane in flames and smoke were taken well after the plane had landed when approximately 800 gallons of aviation fuel ignited as a result of the electrical fire being permitted to spread. Gause has piloted the Liberty Belle but was in Florida at the time of the ordeal. He was at Boeing Field when the same plane was offering flights over Seattle last April. He said he had been a fire- fighter for 17 years and disagreed with the firefighters' call not to drive their truck into the field for fear the field was too moist and the truck would get stuck, which he said was their explanation. "To me it was incomprehensi- ble that they did not want to drive close to the landed plane," Gause said of the fire department serving Oswego. "If your fire truck needs to get through the mud you still try, then if it gets stuck, have a tow truck get it out." Gause contacted us a few days later and said he wanted to soften his criticism of the fire department because, in part, more informa- tion had surfaced about the depart- ment's effort to penetrate the muddy field and he was not there to judge for himself. "This is not the end of the Lib- erty Foundation," said Gause. "We have another B-17 in its early stage of restoration, the one that came out of Lake Dyke in Labra- dor, Canada. The wings are in the process of being restored. All the parts of that aircraft are service- able. We're a good ways away from having that airplane ready to fly. We may try to buy another B-17 assuming there is one of the only 11 that survived in North America for sale. We just don't know at this point." To learn more visit: www.liberty- and B-17 pilot Ron Gause told the West Seattle Herald the day of the crash that while the plane became engulfed with flames, he believed the fire department could have extinguished the fire upon the aircraft landing before Liberty Foundation volunteer Steve Shay can be reached at West Seattle Herald White Center News Jerry Robinson Publisher T. C. 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