Crews work to remove B-17 wreckage
The charred remains of a restored World War II-era B-17 bomber were being removed Tuesday from the scene of a fiery emergency landing in a farm field near Oswego.
Salvage crews spent the day draining fuel and dismantling large sections of the plane, including the nose cone and two left engines. Authorities said National Transportation Safety Board officials hoped to have all the wreckage cleared by nightfall.
"They want to get it done today before we get rain or storms and it gets muddy out there," Kendall County Sheriff's Deputy Craig French said.
The ill-fated bomber had been en route from Aurora Municipal Airport in Sugar Grove to an airport near Indianapolis Monday morning, when one of its four engines apparently caught fire and forced an emergency landing just minutes after takeoff.
The pilot set the Flying Fortress down in a farm field and all seven people onboard escaped before the plane burst into flames.
"Any landing you can walk away from is a good one -- especially when the plane is on fire," said Joe Rand of Oswego, a pilot and air traffic controller who took his 6-year-old daughter Kirsten to take photos of the wreckage Tuesday.
Rand said that while it's "very sad to lose such a piece of history," the pilot and flight crew deserve credit for getting everyone on the ground safely.
"They had to act quickly and know what they were doing," he said. "They did a remarkable job setting it down and I give them a lot of credit."
The bomber, restored by the nonprofit Liberty Foundation, had been at the Aurora airport for about a week to offer rides to World War II veterans and the public. Officials canceled the flights because of mechanical problems, but believed the plane was safe to fly Monday.
French said he spoke with NTSB investigator Tim Sorensen, who confirmed plans to salvage the aircraft.
Sorensen, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, has said investigators will examine pilot logs, maintenance records and the wreckage before issuing a preliminary report in coming days. He said a final report could take more than nine months to complete.
As crews dismantled the wreckage Tuesday, Aurora residents Doug and Cindy Steele, along with 13-year-old daughter Jackie and 9-year-old son Alex, trekked across a corn field to get a closer look at the historic aircraft, which had been one of just 14 B-17s still flying.
"It's just a shame to see a B-17 in this condition," Doug Steele, a Navy veteran who worked on aircraft, said. "It was a beautiful plane."
Jackie Steele said she and her father also visited the landing site Monday. "I've never really seen anything like it," she said.
• Daily Herald photographer Mark Black contributed to this report.