One year since B-17 plane crash at Bradley International Airport


(WWLP) – It’s been one year since a WWII B-17 bomber crashed at Bradley International Airport and took the lives of seven people and injured seven.

On October 2, 2019, the vintage aircraft crashed at 9:54 a.m. while attempting to return to the airport just minutes after takeoff. There were 13 passengers on board, two pilots, one flight attendant, and 10 passengers. Of those passengers, the pilot, copilot, and five passengers were killed, while five passengers and the flight engineer survived.

An airport employee on the ground was also injured when the plane came down and crashed into a station used to store the airport’s de-icing equipment

The six people who were taken to the hospital suffered minor to critical injuries. No children were on board the plane when it crashed.

VIDEO: October 3, 2019

The flight was part of the “Wings of Freedom Tour,” which was sponsored by the Collings Foundation, a Stow, Massachusetts-based educational nonprofit.

What Happened:

According to NTSB Board member Jennifer Homendy, a preliminary investigation revealed that the B-17 plane (#N93012), property of the Collins Foundation located in Stow Massachusetts, left the airport at 9:54 a.m. and experienced elevation problems within five minutes of being in the air.

The plane had circled back to the airport, attempting to land on runway six when an issue with the landing system caused the plane to veer right onto a grassy area before crashing into the facility used to store de-icing equipment and bursting into flames.

Homendy said the plane made contact with officials at the airport tower about the issue before it attempted to make the landing. 

The lives lost:

The pilot, Ernest McCauley, was one of the seven people killed in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board said he flew the plane for more than 20 years and had flown the bombers for 7,300 hours.

Three of the people on-board the plane were from western Massachusetts. Two of them; 56-year-old David Broderick of West Springfield, and 48-year-old James Roberts of Ludlow, were killed. The third local passenger, 37-year-old Andy Barrett, of South Hadley, survived.

The people aboard the plane were:


  1. Ernest McCauley (Pilot) 75 years-old from Long Beach, California
  2. Michael Foster (Co-Pilot) 71 years-old from Jacksonville, Florida
  3. David Broderick (Passenger) 56 years-old from West Springfield, Massachusetts
  4. Gary Mazzone (Passenger) 66 years-old from Broad Brook, Connecticut
  5. James Roberts (Passenger) 48 years-old from Ludlow, Massachusetts
  6. Robert Riddell (Passenger) 59 years-old from East Granby, Connecticut
  7. Robert Rubner (Passenger) 64 years-old from Tolland, Connecticut


  1. Mitchell Melton (Flight Engineer) 34 from Dalehart, Texas
  2. Andrew Sullivan (Airport Personnel) 28 years-old from Enfield, Connecticut
  3. Andy Barrett (Passenger) 36 from South Hadley, Massachusetts
  4. Linda Schmidt (Passenger) 62 years-old Suffield, Connecticut
  5. Tom Schmidt (Passenger) 62 years-old from Suffield, Connecticut
  6. Joseph Huber (Passenger) 48 years-old from Tariffville, Connecticut
  7. James Traficante (Passenger) 54 years-old from Simsbury, Connecticut

A member of the Connecticut Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante currently serves as the 103rd Airlift Wing command chief master sergeant. As an experienced aircrew member, he is said to have taken action when the vintage bomber went down.

“He brought his military-issued flame-retardant flight gloves with him during the flight, and using these, was able to open a hatch on the aircraft allowing other passengers to egress the plane after the crash,” Captain Jennifer Pierce said.

Lawsuits filed:

On June 3, 2020, survivors, as well as family members of the passengers who died in the crash filed a lawsuit suing the foundation that operated the vintage aircraft.

The lawsuit alleges that the Collings Foundation was negligent and thus responsible for the deadly crash.

“The Crash was the result of the negligence, recklessness, and callous indifference of the Collings Foundation, and its agents, trustees, servants and/or employees that resulted in the horrific death of five passengers and serious and permanent bodily and emotional injury to five other passengers,” the complaint’s introduction states.

Among other things, the suit alleges passengers were not all seated in approved seats and were not properly instructed in how to use the aircraft’s military-style seat buckles. They also say passengers were not made aware of how to open the passenger entry door or emergency exits.

B-17 Complaint Filed

On July 27, the family of one of the victims of the deadly B-17 crash at Bradley International Airport filed a lawsuit against the Collings Foundation in Hartford Superior Court.

The family of David Broderick, Jr. says their lawsuit is based on the findings of the NTSB and it alleges that Collings Foundation didn’t follow all the requirements necessary to operate the aircraft safely.

David Broderick Jr. was only 56-years-old when he died after the B-7 crashed at Bradley International Airport in October 2019. The lawsuit alleges that he was seated on the floor of the plane, despite the requirement that all passengers occupy an approved seat and have a seatbelt fastened.

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