The unnecessary death of a B-17 (5×8 – 6/16/11)


The Liberty Belle, the B-17 that burned in a field outside of Chicago this week, did not crash, new evidence shows. A picture from the ground as the engine burned shows the B-17, which had visited St. Paul a week earlier, had landed successfully. But its chief pilot says firefighters couldn’t do anything to save the historical airplane because they didn’t want to get stuck in a wet field (note that the field supported the weight of a landing B-17. A B-17 weighs about 36,000 pounds. A fully-loaded fire truck can weigh 50,000 pounds, but didn’t the fire department have a fire extinguisher or two?).


It’s chief pilot has released a statement about what really happened on Monday:

Directly below the B-17 was a farmer’s field and the decision was made to land immediately. Approximately 1 minute and 40 seconds from the radio report of the fire, the B-17 was down safely on the field. Within that 1:40 time frame, the crew shutdown and feathered the number 2 engine, activated the engine’s fire suppression system, lowered the landing gear and performed an on-speed landing. Bringing the B-17 to a quick stop, the crew and passengers quickly and safely exited the aircraft. Overhead in the T-6, Cullen professionally coordinated and directed the firefighting equipment which was dispatched by Aurora Tower to the landing location.

Unlike the sensational photos that you have all seen of the completely burned B-17 on the news, you will see from photos taken by our crew that our Liberty Belle was undamaged by the forced landing and at the time of landing, the wing fire damage was relatively small. The crew actually unloaded bags, then had the horrible task of watching the aircraft slowly burn while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. There were high hopes that the fire would be extinguished quickly and the damage would be repairable. Those hopes were diminished as the fire trucks deemed the field too soft to cross due to the area’s recent rainfall. So while standing by our burning B-17 and watching the fire trucks parked at the field’s edge, they sadly watched the wing fire spread to the aircraft’s fuel cells and of course, you all have seen the end result. There is no doubt that had the fire equipment been able to reach our aircraft, the fire would have been quickly extinguished and our Liberty Belle would have been repaired to continue her worthwhile mission.

The full statement can be found here.

The pilot who made the emergency landing in the B-17 was John Hess of Georgia. He flies for Delta Airlines.


Gasoline has retreated from its $4-a-gallon high of the year so far. But what’s the real cost? The Center for Investigative Reporting says it’s a lot more than what you’re paying…


The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in Vancouver last night, which sent Vancouver’s hockey “fans” to rioting, smashing windows, and burning cars. Why? Because if goalie Roberto Luongo can’t stop a shot, it must be the fault of firefighters, cops, and store owners.

At some point today, there’ll probably be a news conference to protest the actions of police.

A Facebook group has sprouted to organize a clean-up of the city.

But maybe there’s hope for us yet. In San Francisco, a man was arrested because of his below-the-buttocks pants.


The Viola Gopher Count is underway in Viola, Minnesota. The event originated with local farmers, who chose teams to see which team could collect the most gopher tails. The annual counting of the tails culminated with the losing team providing a picnic for the winning team. The Count is the second-oldest event in the country, according to the Rochester Post Bulletin. It’s one year older than the Kentucky Derby.

A couple of gopher legs can still get you $2.

“People sometimes stick the legs in a jar and keep them in their freezer until the counting,” the Gopher Queen said on “But some also put them on a line and hang them out to dry. That way they won’t smell and the cats won’t run off with them from the garage.”


Bonus: This is a great idea! Take a picture from the past, and then take a picture of the past with a picture of the present. Got that? The Web site, “Dear Photograph” provides the inspiration.


Send yours to me too and we’ll post them here.

Bonus II: Are there too many tornado warnings? A meteorologist in Alabama thinks so.


A Minneapolis history buff is campaigning to change the name of Lake Calhoun because its namesake, Vice President John Calhoun, was a proponent of slavery. Today’s Question: Should we change place names that don’t fit with modern values?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Does power increase the likelihood of promiscuity?

Second hour: Inside the subconscious mind.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Best-selling author Lisa See discusses Chinese culture in Mao’s communist China. Her new book is “Dreams of Joy.” Her book “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” has become a Hollywood movie coming out in mid-July.

Second hour: A debate from NPR’s “Intelligence Squared” series, ” Does freedom of the press extend to state secrets?”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Hacks, attacks, and cyberwar.

Second hour: Summer books.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Most children in Minnesota with terminal conditions die either in the hospital or at home with the help of hospice. There is no hospice facility in Minnesota for kid – even though there are dozens of such places for dying adults. A therapist from Coon Rapids wants to change that by creating a children-only hospice. MPR’s Lorna Benson will have the story.

As St. Paul prepares to launch the Promise Neighborhoods — a federal initiative to improve educational, health and employment outcomes and make college a priority in high-poverty areas — MPR’s Jess Mador looks at two different elementary schools in the proposed Promise Neighborhoods zone. One school is majority Asian-American, the other African-American.