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WWII B-17 bomber consumed by fire near Chicago

Mon., June 13, 2011, 12:40 p.m.

OSWEGO, Ill. — A B-17 bomber dating to World War II apparently made an emergency landing today in a cornfield outside Chicago before it was consumed by fire while the seven people aboard escaped uninjured, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The “Liberty Belle,” built in 1944, visited Spokane in 2009 and 2010. The aircraft is registered to the Liberty Foundation in Miami.

“The plane departed the airport, noted an emergency and the pilot made what appears to be an emergency landing, after which the plane was consumed by fire,” FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said in an email.

The aircraft departed the Aurora Municipal Airport and the accident happened immediately after takeoff with the plane in an Oswego cornfield, Cory said. The National Transportation Safety Board is now investigating the incident.

Jim Barry, who lives in a nearby subdivision, told the Chicago Tribune he heard a low-flying plane and looked to see it. The engine on the bomber’s left wing was on fire, he said.

“Not a lot of flames, just more smoke than flames,” Barry said.

The pilot reported a fire shortly after taking off, Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle said.

“He attempted to make a return to the airport, but couldn’t make it so he put it down in a corn field,” Kunkel told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Firefighters from Oswego, Sugar Grove and Plainfield responded to the scene. Fire officials said they were having difficulty getting to the aircraft because of wet fields.

The B-17 was known as the “Flying Fortress.” That Liberty belle did not fly combat missions in the war.

An email to the Liberty Foundation from The Associated Press seeking confirmation wasn’t immediately returned.

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