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A vintage World War II-era bomber crash-landed and burned in a field near Chicago on Monday, but the seven people aboard escaped without injury, according to aviation officials. The plane, a B-17 Flying Fortress, took off at 9:30 a.m. and went down about three or four miles from Aurora, Ill., about 20 minutes later, according to Elizabeth Isham Cory, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.


The Liberty Belle at Bob Hope Airport, ready to take to the skies over L.A. with members of the media on March 22.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Nose art of the Liberty Belle, a restored WWII-era Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Crew chief David Miller works with a propeller of the Liberty Belle, a restored World War II-era bomber at Bob Hope Airport in March.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

The Liberty Foundation's B-17 "Liberty Belle" makes a stop at Long Beach Airport where it offered flights at $430 per person in March 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

World War II veteran Art Sherman looks at the door with the signatures of past B-17 crew members, including his, on the B-17 Liberty Belle at Long Beach Airport in March 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

The bomb bay of the Liberty Belle, a restored World War II B-17.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

The Norden bomb sight in the nose of the Liberty Belle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

The Liberty Belle takes off from Bob Hope Airport in March.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

The Liberty Belle lands at Long Beach Airport in March 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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WWII-era B-17 Flying Fortress burns near Chicago

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WWII-era B-17 Flying Fortress burns near Chicago

This post has been updated. Please see the note at the bottom for details.

A restored World War II-era B-17, christened the Liberty Belle, burned after making an emergency landing Monday in a cornfield southwest of Chicago. Seven crew members and volunteers walked away without serious injury. The plane had taken off from Aurora Municipal Airport at 9:30 a.m. and made an emergency landing in Oswego, 44 miles outside Chicago, after the pilot reported an engine fire, said Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle.

The plane has been a visitor to Southern California at least twice. The plane was open to the public and available for paid flights in Burbank in March and in Long Beach in March 2010.  Included are some photos from those visits.

[Updated 10:16 a.m. June 15: An earlier version of this post said the plane had crash-landed, which is what originally had been reported.  As commenter FDG has since noted, though,  the plane made an emergency landing and caught fire; this post has been updated to reflect the newer information. Read this story from the Chicago Tribune:  WWII bomber that made fiery landing in Aurora cornfield had maintenance over weekend.]

Ray Fowler, The Liberty Foundation’s chief pilot, posted an account of what happened.


  1. June 14, 2011, 3:39 pm

    A shame! I had the privledge of taking a 45 minute ride on this beautiful plane last year. What a treat! I’m thankful that no one was injured. The crew members I talked to during my trip had a distinct fondness for the plane. She will be missed.

    By: Roger Kobart
  2. June 14, 2011, 11:10 pm

    A wonderful piece of history crashed and burned. How ironic. Glad that no one was injured, but would have loved it if this plane would have been kept in a museum somewhere.

    By: blusterydaysandtomorrowlands
  3. June 15, 2011, 9:37 am

    There is a post on the incident by the chief pilot at . The plane didn’t crash, it landed while on fire and burnt down on the ground.

    By: FDG
  4. June 15, 2011, 6:17 pm

    This is truely sad. She will be missed.

    By: dcpostal
  5. June 16, 2011, 5:55 pm

    Looking closely at the crash photo, the starboard wing looks to be proped up by the extended landing gear. The ground behind the aircraft shows evidence of two furrows leading up to the wreak suggesting a gear-down landing. Great example of piloting skills ! ! !
    The soot on the starboard horizontal stabilizer would indicate the fire was in the right outboard engine area. Because there is no evidence of fire up around the engine cowls, I would think the cause would be an oil system line or cooler problem. Note the air intakes on the wing leading edge ( photo #10 ) and the outlets on the wing's upper surface on photo #2. These are for the oil coolers and turbosupercharger intercoolers.

  6. July 4, 2011, 10:40 am

    What a tragic end for such an important veteran of the "Big One," WWII was, arguably, the last "righteous" war of America and her allies. Even though I am an AF veteran of 23 years and still love aircraft, I am now a dedicated American Veteran Against War.

    By: JakeCrus
  7. July 10, 2011, 12:46 pm

    B 17 I talked to some of the flight crew at an airshow and looked inside, glad everybody made it out ok
    we lost a piece of History

  8. August 8, 2011, 11:56 pm

    My grandfather, Herbert Brill was a B-17 navigator in WWII. He flew many missions and his B-17 was shot down by flak during a bombing raid over France. He survived by joining the French resistance when his B-17 crash landed in German-held territory. It's sad (and scary) to see a B-17 like this catch on fire. I had planned on taking a ride in a B-17 to share some of my grandfathers experience, but this article has stunned me a bit. Maybe I will man up and reconsider someday.

    By: Louis Brill

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