WINDSOR LOCKS    -    A pilot with more than 7,000 hours of experience flying a B-17 and his co-pilot were among seven people killed when the bomber crashed and burned at a Connecticut airport, officials said Thursday.

Pilot Ernest McCauley, 75, of Long Beach, California, had flown for over 20 years with the educational group that owned the World War II-era plane and was also its safety officer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The plane carrying 13 people crashed and burned after experiencing mechanical trouble on takeoff Wednesday morning from Bradley International Airport.

Five passengers were killed along with McCauley and the co-pilot, Michael Foster, 71, of Jacksonville, Florida, according to the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

Investigators have begun securing evidence, including the engine in which the pilot had reported a problem, NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said at a news conference.

As part of the investigation, she said, they also will look into witness reports that work was being done on one or two of the engines prior to takeoff.

The plane had last been through a major inspection in January 2019, she said. Among the passengers killed was Gary Mazzone, 60, of East Windsor, who was a history and military buff, according to his son, Daniel Mazzone. He didn’t know of his father’s plans to ride the B-17, he said, but knew why he would be interested.