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2002 B-17 NEWS
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1997-2001 B-17 News
- Dave Tallichet's 44-83546 (N3703G), Memphis Belle remains at Brantford, Ontario, where work to satisfy the FAA Airworthiness Directive (AD) continues. A nice on-line article details how Goderich Aircraft at Brantford is proceeding with the work. The article notes that five of the eight wing attachment points were found to need work, and that Alcoa Aluminum was asked to prepare the specific aluminum alloy to fabricate new spar parts for many of the B-17s with spar repair work underway. Thanks to Todd Hackbarth for the information.
- In other "AD" news, the October 2002 Rebel Leader newsletter for the CAF Gulfcoast wing features information about the progress of 44-83872 (N7227C), Texas Raiders in complying with the FAA AD. The newsletter puts out a plea for financial help in completing the work, which is expected to take at least another six months. The maintenance process, which involves removing the B-17 wings, revealed five of the eight spar attach points have cracks. Anyone wanting to make a donation to this worthy cause is urged to visit the Gulf Coast Wing website for more information.
- The first photos I've seen of 44-83718 (FAB 5408) in disassembled storage at the Museuo Aerospacial in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, were recently put on the internet. The photo link is now broken but the photos show the disassembled B-17 in a storage hangar. Also, information posted at the Army Air Forces website with Jackson Flores, Jr. noted as the source, indicates that the airplane was damaged when shipped from Natal, Brazil, to the museum in 1980. In February 2001, a $2.1 million allotment from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to the museum has allowed the museum to begin drawing up restoration and display plans for the B-17G. The Forca Aerea Brasileira operated thirteen B-17s between 1951 and 1968, primarily for air-sea rescue. Three of the airplanes survive, with the second (44-85583) displayed at Recife, Brazil, and the third (44-83663) displayed at the Hill Aerospace Museum at Ogden, Utah.
- Patrick Carry made an inquiry to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle, Washington, regarding the status of the museum's B-17F, 42-29782 (N17W) Boeing Bee, which has sat in storage at nearby Renton for the last year or more. A response from the museum curator, Dennis Parks, indicates that due to the incredible expense of operating the airplane, it probably will not fly again unless a sponsor steps forward. As an aside, there are some other factors involved also, including certification issues and available flight crews. The results of the Boeing 307 flight last March, though not related in any measure with the Museum of Flight, no doubt causes a few concerns. Long range plans call for the B-17F to be prominently displayed when a new wing of the museum is constructed over the next few years.
- A few interesting items recently posted at Barnstormers.com. Item number one is quoted in its entirety:
"Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress For Sale!! This is a Boeing B-17G project for sale. Aircraft is basically complete (not crashed). It needs major sheet metal rebuild. We have good paperwork. It has the Sperry top turret, ball turret, and restored chin turret included with the project. It also has the landing gear and servicable propellers. it does not include the engines. $500,000.00 U.S. Contact Michael Ryan-Warbird Relics located at Kissimmee, FL, USA. Telephone: 407-847-0518--Posted 29 November 2002"
This project appears to be the combination of several airframes, the majority being 44-83722. Much much work would be needed to pull a B-17 out of these parts, but it obviously is possible. This project airplane has been for sale before and is believed to be owned, at least in part, by Tom Reilly at Kissimmee. A similar ad can also be seen at the Warbird Relics site.
- Also noted at the Barnstormers.com site, as well as some other vintage aircraft forums, is that the EAA is looking for gear boxes to reactivate the bomb-bay of the EAA B-17G, 44-85740 (N5017N). The part numbers needed are 65-4104-504 and 59-2018-500. Check your junk drawer....you never know.
- Another interesting ad that was posted at Barnstormers but is now gone:
"WWII B-17 FLYING FORTRESS FOR SALE TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!! I am offering my pride and joy, against my will, to the highest bidder. My lawyer will handle the terms of sale. Was purchased from a WWII vet, in very poor health, with the promise of a good home and that it will fly regularly. Turned out to be a dying request. Current offer of $980,000. Please respond by email, no calls please. Contact Andrew Jacobs located Jacksonville, FL. USA. Posted on 31 October 2002"
Intriguing trying to figure this one out, as the stated information doesn't really match any of the surviving B-17s. There is a Mr. Andrew Jacobs who is fairly prominent in the Florida Sports Award program in Jacksonville. More information would be greatly appreciated. The short duration of the ad and the lack of B-17s who "were purchased from a WWII vet, in very poor health" cause one to suspect there is not much basis for the ad. Time will tell. I won't venture to contact Mr. Jacobs directly as per his request for no phone calls, but if there are bolder "Woodward & Bernstein" types out there, please advise.
- Sad to report, but there has been some significant destruction to the remains of B-17C 40-2047 in the mountains above Placerville, California. The site has become more popular in recent years, but last summer a fair amount of wing structure was apparently cut out of the wreckage. The U.S. Forest Service is investigating both that incident and also the removal of several large pieces of the wreck. The airplane went down in November 1941, just a month before Pearl Harbor, and is the only remaining pile of B-17C parts known to be in the Western Hemisphere. (There are at least two other known B-17C crash sites.) The Forest Service has recently posted warning signs at the crash site that it is a Federal Felony to damage or remove any of the wreckage. As the saying goes...."take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints...."
October 2002....Part Deux and Breaking News
- On October 7, the National Warplane Museum and New York Governor George Pataki announced that B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z) would not be sold and would, instead, remain with the National Warplane Museum. The troubled museum is to receive an injection of $1 million in state transportation funds to help it overcome staggering debt. With Fuddy Duddy as the backdrop, Pataki announced the grant to help the museum retire some of its debt. Other arrangements are also being made, including the rental of museum space, to help raise additional cash and put the museum on a firmer financial foundation. Thanks to Todd Hackbarth for the heads up.
- Of interest in Flypast #1: the November issue contains a feature article on Sally B, the UK based B-17G (44-85784 G-BDEF).
- Of interest in Flypast #2: the November issue also contains a short article (by the webmaster) about the end of the Long Beach production of the B-17 in the summer of 1945.
- Kermit Weeks has moved his B-17G (44-83525 N83525) from Tom Reilly's compound at Kissimmee, Florida, to nearby Polk City. The move occurred in August and was apparently an effort by Weeks to consolidate his collection to one location.
This B-17 was used by the USAF until 1958 as a drone controller for QB-17 drones for test purposes. It was at Davis-Monthan until 1967 on informal display. It's civil use has been checkered at best. In 1967, Tallmantz Aviation signed a five year lease to operate the airplane and employed it for the filming of Thousand Plane Raid in January 1968 at Santa Maria, California. After the filming, the B-17, carrying the movie nose art of Balls of Fire, languished on the Tallmantz ramp in disuse. After Tallmantz obtained title to the airplane in 1973, it was sold to Jr. Burchinal and flown to Texas. Burchinal put it to little use also and, in 1983, it was sold to Kermit Weeks. Weeks had his guys work on it to get it airworthy and it was flown from Paris, Texas, to Tamiami, Florida, in May 1987. There, the airplane was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Insurance money for airplane repairs brought it to Reilly's facility for a bit of work, but it spent the remainder of the nineties disassembled at Kissimmee. Whether or not Kermit has short-term plans for the B-17 have yet to be seen, but it would be nice to see Aero Trader at Chino apply their magic touch to get the old girl back into the air. Time will tell. (Update courtesy of Bill Stazczak)
- Speaking of Tom Reilly, the B-17G he is working on at Kissimmee was featured in the October issue of FlyPast magazine in an Jarrod Cotter article about the activities at Bombertown. This B-17G, 44-85734 (N817BR), has been the subject of a near-decade long restoration back to airworthy condition. This particular B-17 was modified by Boeing for Pratt & Whitney to become a postwar engine testbed. Operated as N5111N, the airframe was substantially modified to accept a large radial engine in the nose. The cockpit was moved several feet aft and the fuselage was extensively reskinned for additional strength. Pratt & Whitney donated the airplane to a museum at Hartford, Connecticut, where it was displayed outdoors for a number of years. In 1979, however, it was nearly destroyed by a tornado that swept through the museum complex. Reilly obtained the remains of the airplane in 1988 in trade for some restorative work done on a B-25H for the museum. Reilly and his crew have slowly pulled the airplane together from the near scrap and the photos in the article, shot by Duncan Cubitt, show some incredible progress. Plans continue for its first post-restorative flight in 2003. From the article, the engines are ready to go on, the aft fuselage is ready to be rejoined to the forward section, and the inner wing panels are attached. A scratch-built nose section now graces the fuselage, with the cockpit installed as Boeing intended.
A bit of a mystery still surrounds who actually owns the airplane, with the article stating that the owner is the Boeing Company. That may be, but the registered owner remains the Randsburg Corporation, care of Royal Aviation at Mesa, Arizona. The principal owner of Royal Aviation is Bob Reid, thus possibly the "BR" of N817BR, but this is purely conjecture. The discreet state of the airplane's ownership will emerge someday. It is nice to see the airplane come along.
- Further news out of Florida regarding the B-17 registration paperwork purchased by Jay Wisler a few months back. A short conversation with Jay confirmed that the paperwork for 43-38978 (N4960V), long held by the late Bob Sturges, was purchased to go along with the substantial inventory of B-17 parts, including a few left from the actual N4960V, that Wisler stocks. Between Kermit Weeks, Tom Reilly, and Jay Wisler, there are enough B-17 parts in Florida to pull together another flying B-17; just add money.
- As long as the discussions is centered on these B-17 parts and lots of money, I might mention a pet project I had dallied with a few years ago. There exists the relatively undamaged forward fuselage of B-17G 44-83722. This B-17G is the veteran of service as an SB-17G in the air-sea rescue service, followed by use as nuclear target in the Nevada desert, followed by years of being picked apart to support the B-17 air tankers, followed by years of storage with Kermit Weeks, followed by transfer to Tom Reilly. Well, this airframe could be useful as the basis to remanufacture a B-17C or D fuselage, using original structure aft of the radio compartment. Combined with a B-17G wing (externally identical to the B-17D), R-1820-65 engines, and the narrow chord C-47 props, an airworthy example/replica of an early, shark-finned B-17 could be constructed. Certainly an ambitious project costing multi-millions of dollars. However, a well run fund raising effort coupled with the right organization might be able to put it together. For B-17 enthusiasts, it would be an incredible opportunity.
- Speaking of B-17Ds, it seems very likely that the B-17D held in storage by the National Air and Space Museum since the beginning of time will be reassembled and displayed in unrestored condition for the opening of the huge new annex at the Dulles Airport in December 2003. This airplane, 40-3097, is an extremely rare World War II artifact and deserves not only to be displayed but prominently displayed with honor. It is one of the very few, perhaps the only, airplanes that survived the first months of desperate combat in the Pacific and it remains a tribute to the few heroic airmen who helped hold a very shaky line against a very powerful enemy in December 1941 and early 1942.
- The deal worked out between the American Airpower museum of Farmingdale, New York, and the National Warplane Museum of Elmira, New York, that was to transfer B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z) Fuddy Duddy to the former museum has reportedly fizzled. It now appears that the National Warplane Museum, owner of the B-17G since the mid-1980s, has decided to hang on the airplane and/or seek a better deal with a private collector. The National Warplane Museum website is silent on the entire matter, as is the American Airpower Museum. Reportedly, Fuddy Duddy remains on the ramp at Elmira-Corning Regional Airport.
- The American Airpower Museum has apparently also lost the B-17G it was already displaying. David Tallichet, he of the Military Aircraft Restoration Corp. (MARC), allowed his B-17G, 44-83546 (N3703G) Memphis Belle to be displayed at the New York museum for the last several years. Tallichet has now reportedly sent his B-17G to another, as yet unnamed, museum for future display.
- Neil Stephens passed along a bit of information from Chris Purnell. A magazine article indicates that parts of B-17G 43-38581, shot down over Belgium in February 1945, have recently emerged. The airplane crash landed near Galmaarden, with the crew surviving. A local scrap dealer subsequently scrapped the airplane, but the tail section of the airplane remained in the area, and a local farmer converted it to a chicken coop. It has been used as such for the subsequent half-century. The Belgian Aviation History Association Archaeology Team located and recovered the vertical stabilizer, which still retains the airplane's markings including group code and aircraft serial number. The tail component has now been put on temporary display with some other parts of the same airplane at the Brussels Air Museum.
- Paul McMillan and Rich Hudock passed along that the sunken B-17G located near Croatia in southern Europe has been identified as s/n 44-6630. The airplane was being operated by the 340th BS, 97th BG, of the Fifteenth Air Force, when it was ditched after a mission on November 6, 1944, against Maribor, Yugoslavia. This particular B-17 was rushed into service, being delivered from Douglas at Long Beach in early October 1944, leaving the U.S. within a week, and Less than a month later, it lay at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea. The entire story of the airplane and the search for it can be read at a National Warplane Museum web page.
- While on the subject of underwater Forts, a news report out of Labrador, Canada, speaks to the effort to recover a sunken B-17G, s/n 44-83790, mentioned numerous times on this web page:
"Dateline Happy Valley-Goose Bay, May 13, 2002: The pilot of a plane that crashed a half century ago in Labrador can't understand why the provincial government is refusing the wreck to be salvaged.
US pilot Chester Karney was at the controls of the B-17 in December, 1947 when it ran out of fuel and crash-landed on a frozen lake in western Labrador. Next spring, the plane broke through the ice, and went to the bottom.
An American businessman wants to recover the plane and restore it. But the provincial government says the B-17 is a historical artifact and should be left where it is.
Karney says he's baffled by the attitude. "Who in Newfoundland and Labrador is going to go way out there and look over this body of water, and not seen anything?" Karney says.
The province obtained a court order last month, forbidding any attempt to salvage the old bomber."
- A bit more information about the item last month regarding the sale of the paperwork for B-17G s/n 43-38978 (N4960V). Turns out the sale was to Jay Wisler of Tampa, Florida, a long-time supplier of parts and memorabilia to warbird operators and those interested bystanders. The papers on N4960V will probably remain in storage pending further need. Check out the Warbird Parts webpage; nothing on N4960V here but other interesting stuff.
June 2002....Part Deux
- A couple of items recently surfaced. On the one hand, more word from Hugh McDonald regarding a mysterious B-17G that reportedly has been recovered from Peru and is currently stored in a warehouse somewhere in British Columbia, Canada. Last noted in the February 2001 news update, it is suggested that this report concerns B-17G 44-85821. This ex-USCG PB-1G was sold onto the civil market in early 1960 and appeared briefly on the U.S. civil register as N2873G. It was exported to Peru were it operated for several years. Its fate was never firmly established but it was believed lost in a mid-1960s crash. Hugh McDonald passed along the information noted in the both the February 2001 and October 2000 News. McDonald reports that the airframe is 'wonderfully intact' and that the same group that recovered the Peruvian B-17 is also going after the submerged B-17G, s/n 44-83790 located in Dyke Lake in Labrador. He states that they plan to recover the airframe in 2003 after 'dealing with local issues.' Several groups have previously tried to recover the Dyke B-17G, as yet to no avail. The group hopes to build one airworthy B-17 from the remains of the two. We shall see...
- Another interesting tidbit to surface is the transfer of registration of B-17G 43-38978, long carried on the U.S. civil register as N4960V. This airplane has for years been registered to Columbia Airmotive, the late Bob Sturges' old company located at Troutdale, Oregon.
This B-17G had been transferred by the War Assets Administration to Oregon State University at Corvallis in late 1946. Sturges, deeply involved in the early post-war civil use of the B-17G, himself flew the airplane from Altus, Oklahoma, to Corvallis to deliver the airplane. Years later, after the university was done with it, Sturges was able to work a deal to secure title from the government and, in March 1955, he registered the airplane.
According to Sturges in an interview several years ago, the actual airplane was scrapped for parts in the early 1960s. Sturges, however, kept the aircraft data plate, retained the title, and kept the aircraft registration file active, pending future need. Well, it seems the future is now, because in early May the 'aircraft' ownership was transferred to Donald Wisler of Tampa, Florida. FAA registration files show the file with 'registration pending' and Wisler's name attached to the file. Sturges' sons reportedly still run Columbia Airmotive so it appears some deal was struck to transfer the ownership of N4960V. Now, it would appear Wisler can jack up the airplane dataplate and slide a B-17 in under it. Such is the world of warbirds that the paperwork and the airplane don't always follow the same path. Something to watch, though. Speculation: the B-17 project offered by Tom Reilly, consisting primarily of parts from B-17G 44-83722 and 44-83316, both non-civil airframes, may have found a home. Time will tell. Stay tuned....
- Neil Stephens sends word that the Fortcaster, as detailed in the April 2002 B-17 News is, indeed, the fine figment of a modeler's imagination. Modeler Alvis Petrei was having discussions with other modelers when it was decided that 'the B-17 should have had proper engines!' (note: those old Wright R-1820s were quite proper engines.) Anyway, fantasies being what they are, the story of the Fortcaster was born. Petrei concocted the detailed history of the airplane presented on his website. Check out this link to his site and some color views of his imaginary airplane.
- From Patrick Carry comes some information contained in the Winter/Spring 2002 edition of The Belle Bulletin, the newsletter of the Memphis Belle Memorial Association. On Sunday, November 11, 2001, ground was broken near Memphis for the Memphis Belle Memorial Park for the Second World War, which will become the permanent home for the famed B-17F, s/n 41-24485. Information on the association website indicates that a 25 acre site has been granted for the new museum in Shelby County. The museum is slated to open in November 2003.
The Memphis Belle is, of course, one of the most famous B-17s that ever flew. The celebrated airplane was among the first to complete twenty-five missions with the Eighth Air Force during the early months of the European air war and was the subject of a famous war documentary. The airplane was nearly scrapped after the war but, by a quirk of fate, was saved and brought to Memphis for display. The airplane has since had its ups and downs, but has been displayed at Mud Island in Memphis for the last fifteen years, protected under a canopy but otherwise open to the elements. The new museum will evidently be completely enclosed and thus climate controlled.
In conjunction with the new museum building, the Belle herself will undergo some restorative work. In late 2002 it will be disassembled and moved to a hangar for repainting and refurbishment. Additional equipment will be reinstalled and the airplane prepared for its permanent new home. It looks like the saga of the Memphis Belle will, after all, have a happy ending.
- Todd Hackbarth sent along an update on the situation for B-17G 44-83563, flying as Fuddy Duddy and owned, until recently, by the National Warplane Museum in New York. The sale of Fuddy Duddy to the American Airpower Museum of Farmingdale, New York, announced in January as a solution to the financially troubled National Warplane Museum, was delayed while the deal was approved by the New York Board of Regents. As related in several stories published by the Star-Gazette by Jeff Murray, the Board of Regents took issue with the terms of the sale due to the nature of the financing. The wording of the contract for the $2.5 million deal left open some questions about the disposition of the B-17G in the event the American Airpower Museum defaulted on the loan for the airplane. Evidently modifications to the contract satisfied the board and the deal was concluded in mid-March. The National Warplane Museum, closed since the fall of 2001, was reopened on April 1st. The agreement between the two museums involves an alliance that includes co-sponsored events and displays. Fuddy Duddy will return to the National Warplane Museum ramp often but will be based at Farmingdale, New York.
- I've been researching information about B-17s for the last thirty years but this was a new one on me. According to a now unavailable website, there was a B-17 modification that combined B-17 and Lancaster airframes and it was known as the Fort-caster. According to this modeling website, during World War II the Canadian company Victory Aircraft looked at several big bombers to build to help with the war effort. The B-24 and Avro Lancaster were considered, as was re-engining the B-17 with Merlin engines. Eventually the Lancaster was chosen as the plane to build, and Victory did, indeed, build several hundred Lancasters for the RCAF and RAF.
However, according to the text, one B-17 was built as a proof-of-concept to equip the B-17 with the twelve-cylinder inline Merlin in place of the Wright R-1820s. Not only was the airplane re-engined, but the two airframe designs were blended to produce a twin-tailed Fortress. The aircraft model that accompanies the text depicts what appears to be an early, small-tailed B-17C or B-17D fuselage and wings with a Lancaster tail section and Merlin engines and prop spinners.
The text, written by Alvis Petrie, goes on to say that this airplane was designated as a B-17M ("M" presumably for Merlin) and it was operated by 469 Squadron (RCAF) as an executive transport. Postwar, the airplane was converted to meteorological observation, and operated by Maritime Air Command into the 1950s. The text says the Fort-caster was sold in the early 1960s to 'Bolivian sheep farmers' but it was destroyed in 1969 outside Lubbock, Texas, in an unexplained forced landing.
Comment: based on the available records, this whole account seems to be a fictional account to go along with an interesting airplane model. However, it is posted here because maybe it is just bizarre enough to be true. Has anyone else heard of this story before, is there any basis in reality for the Fort-caster, or do aircraft modelers just have a twisted sense of reality? All good questions that deserve answers.
- The Yankee Air Force B-17G, 44-85829 (N3713G), operated as Yankee Lady has had the FAA mandated spar inspection completed with no spar cracks found. The airplane enjoyed some TLC in early April as volunteers prepared the airplane for the spring and summer activities. (Info thanks to Todd Hackbarth)
- The various B-17 operators are all dealing with the FAA Airworthiness Directive as they can. The Military Aircraft Restoration Corp. (David Tallichet) B-17G, 44-38546 (N3703G) is reportedly at Huron Park, Ontario, to have the spar AD completed. The Commemorative Air Force's Texas Raiders, 44-83782 (N7227C), is grounded for the summer. Other operators have found problems and their aircraft are undergoing repairs as soon as possible to avoid canceling tours and scheduled appearances.
- Some reported progress on the restoration to airworthy condition of the Planes of Fame B-17G, 44-83684, at Chino, California. Word comes from Bob Alvis about the fund raising activities that have begun. In the works are a number of activities to reach the $500,000 threshold needed before any actual work on the airplane is begun. A 1940s hangar dance is planned for June 1st at the Planes of Fame facility. The airplane, most noted for its role as the Piccadilly Lily in the 1960s TV show 12 O'Clock High, was recently moved to a new location near the north hangar. The airplane remains available for tours on the weekends. Check out the website dedicated to the restoration effort. Obviously, donations are desired and sought. Further information is also available at the museum at 909-597-0802.
- As noted above, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has announced a Freedom Tour for their B-17G, 44-85740 (N5017N), Aluminum Overcast. The tour will begin after the Sun n' Fun Fly-In at Florida's Lakeland Airport between April 7 and 13. The airplane will tour north from Lakeland with stops in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and Illinois. The airplane will be in Oshkosh in May, and then resume the tour in Wisconsin, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and back through Ohio before ending up back at Oshkosh for the big summer EAA fly-in at the end of July. The announcement indicates the possibility the B-17G will come to the west coast this fall.
- No news has been posted yet at either the American Airpower Museum or the National Warplane Museum website about the recent sale of B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z).
January 2002....Part Deux
Further to what was noted below regarding B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z), Fuddy Duddy, long operated by the National Warplane Museum in New York: it was announced on January 10, 2002, that the American Airpower Museum at Farmingdale, New York, would purchase Fuddy Duddy for $2.5 million. The National Warplane Museum, in debt to the tune of
$4.0 million, had closed its doors in the fall of 2001. The deal with the Farmingdale museum will allow the National Warplane Museum to reopen its doors in April 2002, with its major debtor, the Chemung Canal Trust Co., satisfied. Part of the deal will result in an alliance between the two museums that will allow Fuddy Duddy to return on occasion for display and airshows at Elmira, the site of the National Warplane Museum.
The American Air Power Museum currently has a B-17G, 44-83546 (N3703G) attached to the museum. That B-17G is actually owned by David Tallichet's Military Aircraft Restoration Corp. and was used in the filming of Memphis Belle in 1989. An arrangement made several years ago brought 44-83546 to Farmingdale for display.
Fuddy Duddy has a historic past. Built in April 1945 and too late for combat in World War II, it was used as a VIP transport in the Pacific during the postwar years. It transported Gen. Dwight Eisenhower on at least one occasion. After being withdrawn from service in 1955 and stored at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, it was purchased in August 1959 by the American Compressed Steel Corp. of Cincinnati, Ohio, for $3156. It went to a subsidiary company, Aero American, the next year, operated by one Gregory Board, a famous (some would say infamous) and colorful pilot with many shady dealings in the international arms trade. In 1961, Board was hired to provide three B-17s for the filming of The War Lover in England, and N9563Z was one of the three B-17s used. The other two were retrieved from a PB-1W (Navy B-17) graveyard at Dallas-Love Field, and the three were ferried to England in the fall of 1961. Memorably recounted in no-doubt-enhanced and breathless detail by the late author Martin Caidin in the 1964 book Everything But the Flak, the three B-17s eventually made it to England and were used to complete the filming. Only N9563Z made it back to the U.S., the other two B-17s being scrapped in England at the conclusion of the filming. N9563Z went on to a more mundane, though no less exciting, utilization as an air tanker through the 1960s and 1970s. Board went on to be indicted in a case that involved the illegal export of Douglas B-26s to Portugal in 1965, but he fled the country and is reportedly still living in Australia. N9563Z, meanwhile, made it to the wide screen at least one more time, being one of five B-17s used in the filming of Tora Tora Tora in 1969. In 1985, N9563Z was retired from the air tanker fleet and, via auction, purchased by the new National Warplane Museum for $250,000. For the past sixteen years it has operated as Fuddy Duddy, a 447th Bomb Group B-17 from the Eighth Air Force. (For the complete history and many photos of this airplane, as well as the other postwar B-17s, check out Final Cut right here at the Aero Vintage website. Over 216 pages of material and lots of photos of B-17s. Not a bad deal for $18.95.)
Though it is sad to see the National Warplane Museum lose their B-17, the best seems to have been made out of a bad situation, and Fuddy Duddy has a good home. Thanks to Jay Edwards, John Gates, and details provided by an article written by Jeff Murray in the Elmira Star-Gazette for providing continuing details as they developed.
- A major item for the small fleet of airworthy B-17s, now numbering thirteen in the U.S., is the application of an FAA airworthiness directive (AD) effective on November 30, 2001. This AD is applicable to B-17Es, B-17Fs, and B-17Gs certificated in any category, including experimental. It specifies that within 180 days of November 30, all B-17s have dye penetrant inspections of the inner wing spars points where they attach to the fuselage, and detailed visual inspections of each of the 64 bolts that attach the wings to the fuselage. Within eighteen months of November 30, the B-17s have to have these 64 bolts removed and inspected, which may in fact require that the wings be de-mated from the fuselage. This obviously is a major problem for B-17 operators and it may ground a number of the airplanes due to the expense of the maintenance.
A number of B-17 operators made extensive comments to the FAA when the AD was proposed, suggesting alternative procedures that were less intrusive and expensive. Also, some of the operating B-17s had similar inspections already performed but the terms of the AD do not exclude even these airplanes from the requirements.
One can understand the FAA for pursuing potential problems with, what is now, fifty-five year old wing structure, but it would seem that a more workable solution was possible. Jump to here to read the Federal Register document that records the AD, the comments from operators, and the response from the FAA.
- Continuing bad news for the National Warplane Museum at Horseheads, New York. The museum has continuing financial problems and the possibility exists that some of their airplane collection may be sold to satisfy overwhelming debt. Obviously, the museum's B-17G, 44-83563 (N9563Z), operated as Fuddy Duddy, might be a candidate to raise a lot of money with one sale. The museum has owned the B-17G since the mid-1980s and has remained both operational and a popular draw for the museum.
- Paul McMillan passed along a web link that tells the story of a B-17E, 41-2505, lost in April 1942 near Port Morseby in what is today Papua New Guinea. The wreckage of this airplane still exists. Check out the site.
- As noted in our April 2001 update, Bill Schirmer has a copy of the crash report for B-17F 42-5367, lost February 11, 1943 near Walla Walla, Washington. He provided some February 1943 photos of the airplane after the crash. Any current photos out there of what wreckage is left?
- Note the dramatic and amazing progress of the static restoration of B-17E 41-9032, My Gal Sal, underway at Auburn, California, by Gary Larkins. The wreckage brought off the Greenland ice cap has been transformed back into a beautiful airplane. The aft fuselage is complete, as is the bomb bay section. The cockpit and nose sections are nearing completion. All the fuselage work is underway at Auburn, while the wings and engines are being restored at the Blue Ash Airport near Cincinnati, Ohio. Eventually, they will be reassembled as a memorial to those lost in World War II. Reportedly, the airplane will be displayed in the condition that existed just after it bellied in during a 1942 ferry flight from the U.S. to England, where it was to join the fledgling Eighth Air Force. Gary and his team are to be commended for an incredible job. Check out the Ultimate Sacrifice website for current news and many, many, photos of the effort.
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