The tragic crash of a B-17 in Connecticut Oct. 2 has raised questions about the airworthiness of vintage aircraft. Should machinery over 70 years old be flying passengers?

The propeller-driven 1945 bomber went down at Bradley International Airport, killing seven of the 13 people aboard, after the pilot reported engine trouble on takeoff and tried to return to the airport north of Hartford.

It’s not unusual, following horrific plane crashes, that people say they are more hesitant to fly in the same model aircraft until things are sorted out. Vintage aircraft are no exception.

Most times, the hesitance is brief. But in the case of vintage aircraft, the opposite sometimes happens; people, rather than show hesitance, reassert their desire to fly in the same aircraft.

Case in point is the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a heavy bomber of heroic lore during WWII. An unscientific poll by Air Force Times on Facebook, revealed overwhelming enthusiasm to fly in vintage aircraft.


Nearly 900 responded, with 73 percent of those people saying they would strap themselves inside old war birds, even when informed of the recent crash. The logic for doing so varied, but some said they trust the pragmatic safety measures regulators enforce and the precautions taken by the aviators and organizations that fly the aircraft.

“I would entertain no second thoughts about flying on a fully restored FAA inspected and approved vintage aircraft”, Donald Weimer reasoned.

"Compared to a Boeing 737 Max, uhhhh yep!!” said Jeff Fletcher, gladly willing to forgo modern air service for crammed space and exhaust fumes.

“I would love to be in a P-51 Mustang,” said Joshua Rey Parker. “My grandfather flew and worked on them and they’re great.”

But not all were so enthusiastic.

“Not until their maintenance is inspected with a fine tooth comb, like we do on our current aircraft,” said Andrew James Litka.

The rarity of the experience may well be the main motivator. Fewer of these vintage aircraft exist, let alone are in flying condition. But these airplanes, especially those from WWII, are beloved and rekindle nostalgia for a time when the United States was able to thoroughly defeat its enemies, once and for all.

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