October 03, 2019

AFA Statement on Loss of Historic B-17: Painful Reminder of the Sacrifices of WWII Airmen

The tragic crash of a historic B-17 Oct. 2 cost the nation an enduring symbol of the sacrifices and heroism displayed by American Airmen in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II. The selfless commitment of the Collings Foundation and the many volunteers who chose to crew and support their B17 program set the highest possible standards for our nation to ensure we never forget the sacrifices made by our WWII veterans and Airmen. They fought to preserve freedoms we all enjoy today — and sometimes take for granted. We mourn the loss of the seven dead and stand by the six individuals who miraculously survived the accident.

More than 50,000 Airmen lost their lives in the four years of WWII and the majority of those losses were on bomber missions over Nazi Germany in B-17s and B-24s. The average age of the crew of a B-17 was less than 25, with four officers and six enlisted Airmen manning the aircraft. Their chance of survival was less than 50 percent. In the Fall of 1943, on one daylight mission known as “Black Thursday,” during operations against industrial capability in Schweinfurt, Germany, more than 60 B17s were lost to enemy fighter aircraft attacks. 

The Air Force Association and our over 97,000 members share in the sadness of the loss of the Collings Corporation B17 crew members and passengers who gave their lives to honor our heritage and the exemplary leadership and courage of our WWII Airmen.

Gerald Murray, Chairman, Air Force Association

Bruce “Orville” Wright, President, Air Force Association