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AAF Form # 14 Aircraft Accident Reports Call #46189
April 12, 1943, Accident # 502
Excerpts from report related to the crash of B-17E "Blues in the Nite" 41-9209

Capt. Marshall E. Nelson stated, "Maj. McCullar made a normal take-off. I was unable to observe the right wing of ship # 41-9209 during its run on the ground but just as it left the ground, I observed a spreading fire on both the upper and lower surfaces of the right wing which quickly enveloped the number-three engine and nacelle, as the fire spread the aircraft pulled up into a stall, fell off on the left wing and crashed 400 yards from the southeast end of the runway."

AAF officer Maj. David W. Hassemer stated, "At the time of take-off, I was in the control tower located approximately the center of the runway, about 60 yards east of the runway. As the airplane came to a point about 200 yards short of the center [midpoint] of the runway, a loud metallic crack was heard by the occupants of the control tower. At a point opposite of the tower a long streak of bluish-white sparking flame appeared below the number-three engine nacelle and in the right wheel assembly. This flame lasted for five or six seconds and then went out momentarily. The plane appeared to have been pulled off the ground sharply. At that time the flames appeared again and turned to a dullish red-orange color. The plane climbed steeply a few seconds after take-off and appeared to reach an altitude of about 300 or 400 feet. It then fell off on the left wing and apparently dove straight into the ground."

On April 12, 1943, 43BG engineering officers wrote, "Investigation of the wreckage...indicate that two unrelated failures occurred during the take-off." A hydraulic brake line on the right hand landing gear strut failed and allowed hydraulic fluid to become ignited. Also, the left hand tire had left the rim/wheel after the airplane became airborne. Further examination revealed that the right hand wheel had cracked down the center.

The famous wallaby: "A dead wallaby was found on the runway about 200 yards from the initial take-off point. It had been struck by an aircraft and may or may not have been struck by the airplane and caused a hydraulic failure by impact." But then on April 19, 1943, a top secret USAAF "Unsatisfactory Report" was written by engineering officers of the 43BG: "The present hydraulic fluid being used on B-17 type aircraft of this group has presented us with a serious problem due to its inflammable nature. On a night take-off here, one ship used excessive brake, and consequently broke the expander tube. The fluid liberated flowed on hot brake bands and broke into flames. The wheel was retracted in flight and a resultant airplane fire started which ended in the crash and death of all occupants." The Aircraft Accident Classification Committee: "The findings of the committee rest at 100% undetermined."

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