HARTFORD, Conn. - A preliminary report by investigators on the B-17 crash that killed seven people at a Connecticut airport this month does not shed light on the possible cause but does paint a picture of a flight clearly troubled from the outset.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in the report Tuesday that the wreckage from the World War II-era bomber has been kept for further examination.
The sightseeing flight crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff from Bradley International Airport on the morning of Oct. 2.
Witnesses and surveillance video confirmed the plane hit approach lights before coming down on the runway and then veering off into a de-icing facility.
According to MIT Aeronautics Professor John Hansman, details in the report show both engines on the right side of the plane were not delivering power.
"Both engine number three and number four -- the two right engines...their propellors were in the feathered position, which would mean that they weren't providing any thrust," Hansman explained. "We don't know at this point, but it's normal procedure when you do have a failed engine...you identify the failed engine...and you would feather that propellor."
Feathering the propellors means turning the edges into the wind to reduce drag. Without it, a propellor that isn't powered would cause major difficulty keeping the plane aloft.
He said if both engines on the right side were found feathered, that would indicate there was either a problem with both engines or the crew could've misidentified the engine and feathered the wrong one.
"Because they apparently veered to the right, that's consistent with the crew having difficulty controlling the airplane -- with both engines on the right side out and the left side just developing full power just to try to keep them in the air," Hansman said.
The report says the plane only got about 500 feet off the ground before the crash, which Hansman said indicates whatever went wrong happened quickly and the pilots didn't have a lot of altitude to deal with the problem.
"If the problem occurred at high altitude, you can fly the airplane -- you can drift it down -- even if you don't have enough power to stay level, you'll have time to figure things out," he said. "In this case, they were rushed. They were close to the ground -- probably desperate to get altitude...it made it much harder and didn't give them much room to maneuver."
Hansman said the initial report only lists the investigation's first findings. There will be a much more thorough report, though this aircraft won't have the detailed information of a flight data recorder because it was a much older plane.
"A four-engine airplane, normally, losing an engine is not a big deal," Hansman said. "Now that we know there was a problem with both engines on the right side...that makes more sense as to why the airplane was having a hard time staying in the air and why they lost control on final approach."
The plane was carrying 13 people, and the two pilots were among those killed.
A third member of the flight crew and four passengers were seriously injured. Another passenger and one person on the ground suffered minor injuries.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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