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- A fair amount of stuff posted this month. To start, so, there I was researching the history of B-17F 42-3470 (N66574, etc.) for a forthcoming article when it came to light that this particular airplane was involved in two incidents serious enough to generate military accident reports. The B-17F was assigned to a training unit at MacDill Field in Florida during the war, and had a mid-air collision on October 15, 1944. Fortunately, no one was injured, but to get the details I turned to Accident-Report.com and got both available reports in short order. Army accident reports are quite comprehensive and provided all the excruciating detail I needed, and also had some photos. The second incident involved the B-17 going off the runway after a landing gear problem. Here is a photo of that incident, taken in March 1945.
This B-17F, but the way, ended up on the campus of Montana State College at Bozeman. Here's an excerpt from a newspaper article showing the airplane on the college campus in 1946 or so, the first time I've seen a view of the airplane from that period.
It then went on to a variety of roles in the U.S., Central, and then South America. It dropped beneath the radar screens operating as HK-580 in Colombia in the early 1960s. What happened to this airplane, the world wonders, or at least me.
- Speaking of South American B-17s, here's a neat little item that popped up recently. A photo taken by Mark Morris showed up on the WIX forum showing some aircraft parts stored near Fort Collins, Colorado.
The main item of interest is a LB-30 stored there, but in the background appears to be the outer wing panels of B-17 CP-588 probably recovered by Don Whittington from Bolivia back in the 1990s when B-17E 41-9210 was recovered. They show up on the top of the above photos, the left panel on the right with what appears to be a very faded U.S. insignia. The right outer wing panel on the left appears with a partial civil registration still visible. This remains a mysterious B-17, usually attibuted to be 44-6332 but probably isn't, as that airframe was shot down over Austria in 1944. I suspect the airplane is actually 42-5332, but this is pure speculation. Not much is known about this airplane except that it appears it was never on the U.S. register, showed up in Bolivia as CB-88 in the 1950s, and later became CP-588. It reportedly crashed in May 1963 but, once again, the details of its fate are not fleshed out yet. Based on the photo above, it would appear at the least the outer wing panels are still around, leading to the possibility that this airplane might be positively identified after all. Thanks to Mark Morris for the photo and Chris Brame for pointing out the wing panels.
- Some interesting new photos have emerged of Eager Beaver, B-17F 41-24487, the nose panel of which is now on display at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum at Pooler, Georgia. To refresh memories, this B-17F was a combat veteran that ended up at the RFC at Altus, Oklahoma. In 1945 it was transferred to the
Williamsport Technical Institute at Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for use in technical training with the school. These two photos were sent in by Jim Finkler, the Annual Giving Officer at the successor school, the Pennsylvania College of Technology.
The photos were taken in the 1946-1947 timeperiod and show the airplane at the school.
Jim reports that his understanding is that the airplane was used until about 1954 when it was scrapped. The nose panel was saved and was stored by the school until 1993 when it was put on display at the school. As noted elsewhere, it went to the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in 2000. See two more photos below in the February 2006 update, one of the airplane in 1945 and the other of the nose panel on display at the museum. Thanks much to Jim Finkler and Nancy Wilson Yaudes, who provided the photos to Jim. Nancy was a teenager at the time and a family friend of Frank Pannebaker, a powerplant instructor at the school. Nancy remembers being able to crawl through the airplane, and one ocassion where Frank let her crawl into the ball turret, afterwhich he shut the power off to the turret, trapping her for a amusing amount of time. Good stuff still surfaces.
- Bryce Rhude sent along some current photos of a B-17 project that has sort of dropped below the radar screen: the effort to restore and display My Gal Sal, otherwise known as B-17E 41-9032. The airplane, still disassembled, was available for viewing at an event at the Blue Ash airport at Cincinnati, Ohio. The fuselage sections are shown largely complete.
Also on display was a B-17 control panel made up of bits and pieces collected during the restoration effort and not necessarily anything that was from the subject B-17.
The final display plans remain vague, at least to this writer, who arguably may not be privy to the big picture. Thanks to Bryce for providing the photos.
- New paint for B-17G 44-85774, otherwise known as Sally B. In mid-September the airplane was stripped at Air Livery at Southend Airport in England. It was stripped and repainted in essentially the same paint scheme, that of B-17F Memphis Belle but with Sally B on the left nose and Memphis Belle on the right. The airplane has worn Memphis Belle markings since its appearance in the 1990 film of the same name. The nose art was updated a bit also. Thanks to Peter Green at bomberlflight.info for the photos and information.
- Peter Green at Bomberflight was also kind enough to forward some photos he took in June of B-17G 44-83868 on display at the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon. He took the photos in the museum as time exposures back in June. This airplane is an ex-Navy PB-1W that flew as N5237V in air tanker service with Butler Aviation at Redmond, Oregon in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Here is a fresh view of B-17G 44-85734 (N390TH>, Liberty Belle taken on October 3, 2006 by D.M. Barlay.
- Todd Hackbarth reports on some recent activity for the Yankee Air Force B-17G 44-85829 (N3193G), otherwise known as the Yankee Lady, and some filmwork it did in June:
In June, our B-17 flew to Hamilton, Ontario for filming of the movie Closing the Ring with Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Mischa Barton, and Pete Postlethwaite. It is directed by Richard Attenborough. Plot Outline: A young man searches for the proper owner of a ring that belonged to a United States World War II bomber pilot who crashed in Ireland 50 years ago. In 1943, A dying gunner, who was in a crash involving a United States B-17, gives a ring to a local to return to his girlfriend in the USA. Fifty years later, a man finds the ring and tracks down the girlfriend and the history of this ring. Set in Belfast and North Carolina.
- Finally, a nice new photo of SB-17G 44-85583 as displayed in Recife, Brazil, taken by Normando Carvalho, Jr., has been posted to Airliners.net. Jump to here to view the photo. Thanks to Todd Hackbarth for the tip.
- First out of the chute is good news about the progress being made on the CAF B-17G 44-83872 (N7227C), better known as Texas Raiders. This veteran was disassembled five years ago to satisfy an FAA Airworthiness Directive for some wing spar attach parts, and it has been slowly coming back together. Well, it is now back on its landing gear and, with that major milestone, is beginning to look again as Boeing intended. The Gulf Coast Wing of the CAF has also moved across the Houston Hobby Airport in August as its old hangar is slated for demolition. In the early morning hours of Monday, August 28, Texas Raiders was pushed out of the old hangar and tugged across the field to its new home. The CAF wing has been having a major moving party in an effort to get everything moved to the new facility. The stated goal is to get the B-17G back together by the end of 2006 and flying again in early 2007. Ambitious, to say the least, but it will probably get more people involved the closer it gets. Check out the most recent information here.
- Courtesy of information on the WIX Forum is news about Nine-O-Nine, otherwise known as 44-83575 (N93012) having its tail bashed in when the airplane was unwantedly moved by a thunderstorm. That tail was a custom made Boeing-style "stinger" tail that is now off the airplane for repair. The Collings Foundation was able to secure the loan of the "Cheyenne" tail off of Kermit Weeks' 44-83525, the first time any of that airplane has flown in a couple of decades (if you don't count hurricanes). Here's a bitty picture of the bashed tail courtesy of WIX and "Django" (hope he doesn't mind; if he does, the picture will come down).
Jump to here for a photo of the temporary tail being fitted.
- For those who don't peruse the Aero Vintage Forum site, and there are many, note a recent posting for those who want some B-17 structural raw materials that have to be custom run nowadays. Check out Bill Stanczak's message:
We are currently prioritizing some new parts for our B-17,
and as the expense per part goes down with quantity, I'm wanting
to know if there is anyone out there needing any of the following parts:
BAC1506-510 (Thin longeron used in the cockpit)
BAC1506-511 (Thick longeron used in the keels, for example)
Square Aluminum Tube:
BAC1501-9505 (.118" walls)
The square tube is used in the bombay catwalk and wing root,
and is almost non-existant (stock wise) in 2024T3. This is a good
opportunity to replace (not just patch) damaged catwalk spars.
Contact me if you have questions about their use.
If you need just one or two pieces, this is an opportunity
to get them cheap. Also, Murphy loves airplanes. If you
buy it, you'll never need it. If you need it, there either won't
be any, or it will cost you an arm and a leg.
We also have large bulb angle stringers for the lower waist
fuselage, BAC1515-507, and a few pieces of the extrusion,
already stretchformed, for making Bulkhead #3.
- Doug Rollwitz sent along some recent photos of TB-17G 44-83512 on display at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. The airplane, displayed at Lackland since 1957 (approaching its fiftieth year on display!!)has received a general cleanup and new paint. It remains marked as Heaven's Above.
- Also inbound on the electronic runway were some recent photos of B-17F 42-3374 on display at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. John Gates saw the airplane recently and reported that he was able to make advance arrangements with the Public Affairs Office on the base and they provided an escort for the photography. The rarer "F" model is painted as Homesick Angel and has a past that includes service for a movie studio and a time as a base display at Beale AFB in California. It looks to have the blown "F" Plexiglas nose instead of the stubbier "G" nose it used to have mounted.
- John Gates has been traveling a bit, apparently, for he also sent in some recent photos of the effort underway at Urbana, Ohio, to rebuild the remains of several B-17 airframes into a complete B-17. Most of the fuselage structure of this effort comes from SB-17G 44-83722 but it is being billed (builded??) as EB-17G 44-85813. More parts come from VB-17G 44-83316. These photos show continued progress. When John was there on July 15, two crews were working on the main wing center sections, carefully drilling out rivets and removing the "skins" for future use as pattern.
This first photo shows the forward fuselage including the cockpit area as it starts to come back together:
The second shows the horizontal stabilizer, sans skinning, as it awaits further work.
- Dipped into the photo archives a bit and came up with a photo of two of the above three B-17s taken in 1987, almost twenty years ago, at the Aero Trader storage yard at Borrego Springs, California:
- Rumor mill #1: a B-17C reconstruction project is moving toward reality; an announcement should be forthcoming soon and it should prove to be both challenging and interesting, to say the least.
- Rumor mill #2: news should be forthcoming shortly about another of the more rare B-17s that might see a more purposeful effort in getting one more airframe together and maybe in the air.
- The fate of the B-17E known as the Swamp Ghost, 41-2446, remains tenuous at best. Last word is that it remains in storage at Lae in Papua New Guinea (PNG), awaiting a decision about whether it will ever leave the country. The whole story remains cloudy, probably for good reasons. According to PNG press accounts as outlined at the Pacific Wrecks website, Australian Robert Greinert, representing a company named Aero Archaeology, paid $100,000 to the government of Papua New Guinea, to be split amongst the National Museum, the government and local landowners. Greinert has earlier history in Papua New Guinea, having recovered and is currently restoring at least a P-38 and a Japanese Ki-61 for the PNG National Museum, also according to the Pacific Wrecks site. Aero Archaeology, meanwhile, is owned by Alfred Hagen, a Philadelphia businessman who held an expired PNG salvage permit for the B-17E that was "quietly renewed" shortly before the May 2006 recovery. Hagen has worked with Tallichet in the past, though another PNG media account states that MARC has "no knowledge" about the B-17E and is not involved in its recovery.
Other items of note culled from articles posted on the Pacific Wrecks website: The PNG Public Accounts Committee has threatened to "repatriate" every single war relic sold or stolen from the PNG (July 5).
A PNG account states that Joe Krzeminski supervised the recovery under the sponsorship of four Americans - Fred Hagen, Billy Hansfield, Paul Adams and Robert Reinhartz.
Unconfirmed rumors on July 11 indicate the airplane has now been shipped out of PNG.
From me, the webmaster, a personal note: this recovery has sparked several furors, among them the right of the PNG to control its war relics; the circumstances that allowed the National Museum to allow the salvage and export of the B-17E, possibly counter to the national interests of the PNG; the ultimate value of letting a rare airplane slowly disintegrate in a remote swamp; and an undertone of cultural imperialism by American and Australian individuals. Reading the continual angry and vitriolic postings on several warbird forums against those in the PNG who are trying to do right by their laws and government is embarassing to all in the warbird community. I am glad the B-17 is no longer in the swamp but the effort to recover, export, and restore or preserve the airplane should be above board, open, and fair to the PNG. It is, after all, just an airplane. Are the ends (in this case another B-17 in the U.S.) worth the means (allegations of bribery, theft, a minor international incident, and bad feelings all around)???
- Mark Sublette sent in a photo of 44-83546 (N3703G), Memphis Belle as seen at Andrews AFB, Maryland, in May, as mentioned so eloquently in last month's update.
- Dave Littleton of Chelmsford in the UK sent in some photos of a little project he's been working on in his garage. He notes on the Aero Vintage Forum site the following:
The structure was made from photographs and having access to the B-17s Mary Alice and Sally B to get dimensions from. It has taken a while to get to this stage but it is slowly coming together.
I was trained as a sheetmetalworker and I have access to a machine shop so this has helped a great deal, tracking down parts has been a major problem, but if you follow every lead, some work out but others draw nothing. I have all the windows and the instrument panel, and pretty much all of the internal items now. I am in the process of making the seats, DryMartini (Bill Stanczak of the Desert Rat team) has been a great help to this project, he has supplied drawings and photographs that has made things easier for me. The throttle consul was actually quite easy to make with the correct drawings, all the levers move but I missed out the pulleys and linkages inside, as I felt their was no need to go that far. I have loads of photos of the project coming together and anyone wishing to use these to help promote what I am doing feel free to do so.
You never know some people might want to donate some parts.
Dave also passed along to me that he expects to complete the project in a year or so, and will install lighting also. He will study and select appropriate nose art to give his project an identity. Next? The radio room. He has allthe radios and equipment to go into it so he will construct the structure to allow him to install the equipment. All I can say, besides "Wow" is "Go, Dave!!!"
- Christopher Brame passed along to me some B-17 stills from Tora! Tora! Tora! that I've included in the new B-17 Movie Page, one of which is shown here. This view depicts what is believed to be 44-85774 (N621L) having a right main landing gear problem which, after the cameras were set up, the resulting crash landing ended up in the completed film.
- Pat Carry passed along to me a copy of the National Museum of the USAF news and notes newsletter for June. A short report on the progress of B-17F 41-24485, otherwise known as the Memphis Belle, is included. It notes that...
...volunteers are restoring the radial engies, the aft tail section has been stripped of interior parts, and sheet metal repairs were started. Also, the outside of the aft tail section has been stripped of paint, and the staff discovered names that had been scratched into the metal during the Memphis Belle war bond tour. The upper turret was dismantled and cleaned, and reassembly has started with the missing items that have been obtained. The vertical stabilizer has been stripped of paint and need repairs have been noted.
Sounds like progress is being made.
- A discussion on the WIX forum brought forth this fairly recent photo of Kermit Weeks' B-17G, 44-83525 in disassembled storage at the Fantasy of Flight facility at Polk City, Florida. Thanks to Chuck Gardner, we now know this airplane is stored indoors, which is good to hear. The repairs to the nose were reportedly done as part of the insurance settlement after Hurricane Andrew severely damaged the airplane, causing to take an unscheduled flight of a quarter mile and dropping it into some trees.
Here's an interior view of the aft fuselage. This airplane was last used as a USAF DB-17G, then operated by Tallmantz Aviation for one film and a few flights, then by Jr. Burchinal for a couple of years. It last flew regularly say in....1958.
- Nice photo of the cockpit of 44-85734 (N390TH) now flying as Liberty Belle as sent in by one of its pilots, Bob Hill. The airplane looks as good on the inside as it does on the outside. It's touring now so look for it at your local airport.
- Good news from Oshksoh: 44-85740 (N5017N) returned to the air in better-than-before condition on March 7 after a near-two year repairs following a gear collapse at Van Nuys, California. In the early afternoon, the silver B-17G embarked on a successful 50-minute test flight under the pilotage of EAA Director of Flight Operations Sean Elliot. The airplane will begin a west coast tour in San Diego on March 31.
- Simeon Roberts sent in some photos taken at Chino in late February, including these of DB-17P 44-83684, otherwise known as the Piccadilly Lilly. Of interest is that the many, many layers of paint have been stripped from the airframe, leaving it a ragged natural aluminum. The years have not been kind to this airplane, the first B-17 to be operated by a museum, namely the Air Museum collection organized and assembled by Ed Maloney. It's main claim to fame was the starring role in Twelve O'Clock High but it was flown by the museum until the early 1970s when finally grounded. An effort is now underway at Planes of Fame to restore the airplane to airworthy condition, a task that will undoubtedly prove more difficult that appearances would suggest.
The close-up view shows remnants of its last USAF markings, those of the last drone controlling DB-17P, or any active manned B-17, in USAF service. It was retired in the summer of 1959.
- Okay, so how many people woke up this morning with a burning question about where the aft fusealage of B-17G 44-83316 was currently located? Don't be ashamed. Admit it, it's okay. Well, much to your relief, we now know the answer. That airplane, which went from USAF VB-17G to Twelve O'Clock High TV series set dressing, to part's source, to desert snake storage device, saw the following fate: wings, shed about 1964, are missing in action. Fuselage from the bomb-bay forward: used by Arnold Kolb in the late 1960s to rebuild B-17G 44-85813 (N6694C) from a five-engine test bed into standard B-17G air tanker. Vertical stabilizer: to the CAF at the Arizona Wing at Mesa, Arizona; horizontal stabilizers, missing in action; fuselage from the bomb bay aft: from Kolb to (eventually) Kermit Weeks and stored at Aero Trader's desert storage site for many years, to Tom Reilly, and now to the Urbana, Ohio, B-17 rebuild project. Here is a photo of the aft fuselage arriving at the Urbana shop on February 8, 2006:
Yep, that faded and chipped olive drab paint and AAF star on the airplane was applied by some Quinn Martin Production guy around 1964 at Chino for the TV series. The irony of all of this is that this battered aft fuselage is now going to be incorporated into the airframe that is the rebuild (again) of that old 5-engine 44-85813 that the front fuselage went into about 35 years ago. The left wing inner section shown in the photo may have come from 44-85813 but that's not clear yet. I need to think and ponder about this, and look at some photos that are in deep storage, so the jury is still out on that. But, from the photos displayed at the Urbana website, the following is indicated: fuselage from bomb bay forward and some wing sections are coming from SB-17G 44-83722; fuselage from bomb bay aft is from aforementioned 44-83316. Various small parts, possibly a wing section or two and, most importantly, the aircraft serial number, already FAA certified, is coming from 44-85813. This is a mix and match airplane that could be flying someday. We shall follow this closely.
By the way, search this page for 44-83316 as there are several photos and items regarding this airplane through the years.
- The Winter issue of the newsletter of the Friends of the National Museum of the USAF has the first detailed report of the condition of the B-17F Memphis Belle, aka 41-24485, which arrived at Dayton in October 2005. Here are the pertitent excerpts, courtesy of Pat Carry:
The Memphis Belle arrived soon after the last issue of this magazine was printed and we have been busy surveying both the airframe and the items that came with it. We certainly have our work cut out for us in the restoartion of this historic airframe. The condition of the Belle is worse than we expected and the vandalism is much worse than oringinally thought. Most of the detail parts that make a restoration complete have been vandalized, stolen or otherwise lost by persons who have had access to the Belle over the years. As you know the Belle has been displayed in unsecured loactions during its stay in Memphis so we have to undo the ravages of weather and acquire/replace all parts that have disappeared over the years. Essentially the Belle is a hollow shell hence it is not a pretty picture. We will also have to redo or replace some really inept repairs made over the years. Our first effort will be to strip the entire airframe inside and out to uncover corrosion that is hidden by paint and to return the interior to its correct bare metal finish. We have to rewire and replace most of the tubing in the Belle to return it to the correct and complete configuration. The great news is that we have a source for the original cloth covered wiring so that's taken care of but time to replace all this wiring will take a considerable amount of time. Recovery of the Belle was long overdue and we here at the museum are delighted that it has been accomplished. We have already started on cleaning up a new set of engines that are virtually "0" time however like everything else involving restoration of an airframe such as the Belle it will take time. We are documenting the restoration completely and plan to publish a monograph when the restoration is complete.
Sounds like the airplane is finally in good hands. Despite the best efforts and good intentions of the group in Memphis, this airplane is due some serious tender loving care. Expect a ten year restoration effort.
- The engines do run run run. Aluminum Overcast, the EAA B-17G (44-85740), is getting close. On February 21, the EAA issued a press release that the engines were started and checked.
Here is the text of the EAA release:
A major milestone in the restoration work of EAA’s B-17 Bomber Aluminum Overcast occurred Tuesday afternoon, February 21, when its Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone radial engines were started and run for about 25 minutes. The successful engine run-ups mean that the project remains on schedule for initial test flights in early March, says EAA Director of Aircraft Operations Sean Elliott.
“We knew all the hard work of the EAA Aircraft Operations staff and volunteers paid off when we heard the bark of those wonderful radial engines after 18 months of silence,” he said. “All systems are functioning well, which means we’re on track to begin the pilot training program in the aircraft on March 15.” Barring any setbacks, the aircraft will be flown to San Diego’s Gillespie Field Airport where it’s scheduled to launch the 2006 “Keep it Flying” tour March 31-April 2. For complete tour details, including online flight reservations, visit www.b17.org.
- A minor incident with B-17G 44-85734 (N390TH), Liberty Belle, occurred on March 2 at Fulton County Airport near Atlanta, Georgia, when the tail wheel blew and the airplane was taxied onto the grass to avoid blocking the taxiway. The tire was replaced and the airplane was quickly flying again. Got the notice of some local media that made it sound like a bigger deal than it was.
- The WIX forum had a report that old Fuddy Duddy, B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z), was seen doing crashes and dashes, er..., touch and goes, at Chino also on March 2. Word is that this airplane will be putting in appearances at some airshows this summer, mostly in the Southern California area. This B-17 is now based at Orange County Airport.
- Interesting and exciting news coming out of Ohio. The Tom Reilly B-17 project, reportedly sold to a group in Canada, turns out to have been sold to a pair of brothers based at Urbana, Ohio. Eric and Dave Shiffer are putting together a team to rebuild the remains of 44-85813 and 44-83722 into a new, flying B-17G with the serial of the former.
They are looking for help. Here is what is posted on their website, located here:
Volunteers are needed to help restore 44-85813 to flying status. The restoration process will be directed by Tom Reilly. Estimated time to flying status is eight to ten years. Vistors and volunteers welcome. Please call or email for more information. Project is located at Grimes Field I74, in Urbana Ohio. Volunteers will be able to work week days, evenings, and weekends. Drop in visitors are welcome both week days and weekends, but it is suggested you call ahead. Please see the contacts page on this web site.
These remains of these two airplanes is pretty much the last basis for a restorable B-17 that remained in the U.S. The larger part of the project is the remains of SB-17G 44-83722 that was used as an atomic test target in Nevada in the 1950s. It was pulled off the test range in the mid-1960s (along with 44-83785 (N93012) that now flies as 909) an used as a parts source to support B-17 air tanker operations. It was purchased by Kermit Weeks in the late 1980s and stored at the Aero Trader storage yard in the desert near Borrego Springs, California, through the 1990s. Those parts consist of the disassembled fuselage, wings, and tail parts. Much of the airframe suffered nuclear blast compression from the blasts it was subjected to, and the back of the fuselage was broken during the testing. 44-85813 was the five-engine test bed (N6694C flown by Curtiss-Wright from the late 1940s through the mid 1960s. It was obtained by Arnold Kolb for use as an air tanker, and he used the forward fuselage of VB-17G 44-83316 to rebuild the B-17 to a standard configuration. It operated as an air tanker through the 1970s but crashed at Bear Pen, South Carolina, in 1980. Though part of the airplane burned, enough was salvaged and brought to Tom Reilly's facility at Kissimmee, Florida, where it spent the 1990s in storage. Tom Reilly, who closed his Kissimmee shop last year to concentrate on the restoration of B-17G 44-83790 for Don Brooks at Douglas, Georgia, will also lend his expertise to pull a flyable B-17G out of the remains of two partial hulks.
- For those following along in the program, then, there are four B-17s actively being restored to flying condition: B-17G 44-83790 underway at Douglas, Georgia, under the direction of Tom Reilly; B-17E 41-2595 at Marengo, Illinois, under the direction of Mike Kellner; B-17E 41-9210 at Arlington, Washington, under the direction of the Flying Heritage Collection, and now 44-85813 at Urbana, Ohio, under the direction of Tom Reilly. With the two airplanes that should be airworthy again in the next few years (EAA's 44-85740 and CAF's 44-83772) we have the potential for having seventeen flying B-17s someday. This doesn't count the six B-17s being held in storage by various entities, several of which could become flyers. Not too shabby for 60 years after the last one was built. Let's see how many we can get together to fly on July 28, 2010: the 75th anniversery of the first flight of the Boeing Model 299, the airplane that started it all.
- Peter came through with a 2004 photo of the nose panel from Eager Beaver, B-17F 41-24487, that's on display at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum at Pooler, Georgia.
The basic story behind this airplane: it was one of the original 35 airplanes assigned to the 306th Bomb Group in 1942 when the group went to England for service with the Eighth Air Force. It flew fifty combat missions. Surprisingly, it survived the war and was sent to Altus Field, Oklahoma, for scrapping after the war ended. Instead, it was transferred to a technical school in Pennsylvania. It disappeared from sight afterwards, presumably scrapped. However, the left forward nose section with the name and nose art survived and was donated to the Museum. It was placed on display in 2000. The nose panel is apparently all that remains of the airplane. Its serial number, by the way, is only two removed from the more famous Memphis Belle. And, by the way, here is a photo (included in the book Final Cut) of Eager Beaver at the RFC storage lot at Altus, Oklahoma, about 1946. It was one of the first transfers from the RFC to a technical school and was written up in an RFC newsletter at the time.
Also displayed at the museum is this top turret:
- The FAA has finally gotten around to clean up the U.S. aircraft registry a bit. They are justifying it based on national security. Old or questionable aircraft registrations are now being removed and shown as "This aircraft's registration status may not be suitable for operation." Within the last month, the following B-17s, long on the civil register but not really airframes, have gone to this status: N3142U (underwater near Greenland); N5069P (reserved but no status ever determined); N5236V (scrapped circa 1962); and N9814F (surplus from the Israeli AF but scrapped in Israel). Still registered but not really 'out there': N3142U (underwater near Greenland) and N4960V (long since scrapped but operating as a 'paper' airplane for an unknown, unspecified, future project, just in case).
- Bill Stanczak forwarded some more photos of the progress being made at Marengo, Illinois, on B-17E 41-2595, otherwise known as Desert Rat. As can be seen, progress is continuing on the aft fuselage, particularly on the left side where the cargo door had been installed.
Here is a view of the early B-17 framed nose piece slated for installation. Bill notes that this rare part came from the Lone Star Flight Museum in a three-way trade a decade ago. This nose may have been mounted on an air tanker at some point but I've never seen evidence of that.
As far as I know, there are only two known original early B-17 (B-17E and earlier) framed nose pieces: the one on B-17D 40-3097 and this one. The one on the B-17D came off of the B-17F (42-3374) now displayed at Offutt AFB, Nebraska, that originally was in the Air Museum/Planes of Fame collection at Chino, after being saved from a movie studio cleanout at Culver City by Ed Maloney in the 1960s. Long story, short nose.
**** Correction**** Oops, grossly incorrect about the framed nose pieces: as Dik Shepherd pointed out, B-17E My Gal Sal (41-9032) in Ohio also has the framed nose, and there are several B-17E wrecks still waiting to be recovered, including Swamp Ghost (41-2446) in Papua New Guinea with the framed noses. Oh well, accuracy is only important if you're wrong.
- For those of you rebuilding a B-17 in your basement, Bill Stanczak also passes along that they are looking for folks wanting to do extrusions for the number 3 fuselage bulkhead, that being between the nose and the cockpit. He posted this request at the Aero Vintage forum site:
"I am currently looking at having the frame parts for bulkhead #3
extruded and stretch formed. Currently, there are two airframes
signed on to participate. I am soliciting others, since this is an
opportunity to get these parts made in a quantity that would
greatly reduce the cost per part.
Bulkhead #3 separates the nose from the cockpit.
The extrusion is a Double-Tee, 2024 alloy
A fine opportunity for those needed a bulkhead, or just a conversation piece for the living room wall.
- News popping around the aviation forums about a possible B-17 wreck being discovered underwater off Queensland, Australia. Diver and underwater filmmaker Ben Cropp announced on December 21, 2005, that he had located the wreck of a large airplane, possibly a B-17, B-24, or Japanese Emily flying boat. Can't be in too good of shape, though, because he noted that he plans to identify it by "counting the pistons" on the engines. Hmmm...if that's the only way to identify it... (Thanks to Andrew Wright for this tidbit)
- Heinz Richter passes along news of his new website, the first known Danish site dedicated to the B-17. Check it out here.
- Since the EAA has announced a spring tour of their B-17G Aluminum Overcast, 44-85740 (N5017N), it is clear the airplane is nearing airworthiness status twenty-one months after the gear-retraction incident that occurred in May 2004 at Van Nuys airport. EAA has announced it expects early March test flights, and the tour is scheduled to start at the end of March at San Diego.
- The biggest recent news is the announced sale of B-17G 44-83563 (N9563Z), Fuddy Duddy in late December. This aircraft went on the market in October (see below) and was available at the Courtesy website. The rumored asking price was in the $3.5 million range, and apparently the sales price was probably close to $3.0 million, based on an announcement by the National Warplane Museum (renamed Wings of Eagles)that their $3.1 million debt has been retired. Here is the announcement carried on the Wings of Eagles website:
Last summer the Trustees of the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center agonized over a business decision that no one wanted to make. It became painfully clear that our organization would no longer be able to own, display and operate our beloved B-17, Fuddy Duddy. With the passage of time, Fuddy had become increasingly expensive to own and operate. Further, the National Warplane Museum assumed substantial debt during the move to Elmira, severely limiting our potential. There was only one solution and the Board reluctantly authorized the sale of our iconic B-17. The challenge was to find a buyer with the integrity, commitment, caring and means to carry on a remarkable story with this very special airplane. We found that buyer in California. On Thursday, Martin Aviation welcomed Fuddy to her new home at John Wayne Airport in Southern California. Having accepted the torch, they plan to raise it to new heights, bringing the inspirational story of the our B-17 crews to a new generation of Americans. We are saddened by our loss, but thankful to have placed Fuddy in such loving and capable hands. We will eagerly follow her accomplishments in years to come. With this transaction, the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center is debt free and poised to begin a very exciting future. Please track our progress and join us on a voyage of discovery as we examine the stories of aviation and apply their lessons to the challenges that lie ahead.
So, there it is. The airplane is now owned by Martin Aviation which, in turn, is owned by Gen. William Lyons (ret.) at Orange County Airport in Southern California. The airplane arrive at KSNA in the week before Christmas and is now parked on the west side of the airport along with the Lyons B-25J and A-26C. As those airplanes remain flyable and are occassionally flown, it is presumed the B-17G will also remain airworthy. The last time a B-17 was based at Orange County, it was the Tallmantz B-17G (44-83525 N83525) at the airport between January 1968 and April 1972. Thanks to Mark Clark and many others for this information.
- Dik Shepherd sent what to me is a rare photograph of B-17G 44-83316 in storage at Norton AFB in 1964. From the appearance of the airplane, this photo was taken after Tallmantz Aviation removed the control surfaces and before a crew from 20th Century Fox descended on the airplane to strip it for a cockpit mockup and set dressing for the filming of the TV series Twelve O'Clock High.
This airplane had last been used as a USAF VB-17G and evidently had been promised to Tallmantz for their collection until it was appropriated by the film crew. There was some bad feelings for awhile between Tallmantz and the USAF over this airplane, but the USAF came through later with the loan of DB-17G 44-83525 to Tallmantz.
Meanwhile, 44-83316 lost its wings and engines, probably scrapped after the studio didn't need them, and the fuselage moved to Chino airport where it played second fiddle to the Piccadilly Lily, aka as 44-83684 (N3713G). The second fiddle was burned and blown up a few times for the TV series, and here is another photo provided earlier by Dik Shepherd of the same airplane taken during the filming of the TV series. The wings, by the way, come from some other aircraft type.
As noted below, parts of this airplane are still around.
- Speaking of Twelve O'Clock High, there is a book now available entitled The 12 O'Clock High Logbook: The Unofficial History of the Novel, Motion Picture, and TV Series by Allan T. Duffin and Paul Matheis. I've read the book and will add a book review to my site later, but it covers the subject well and had a episode by episode guide to the TV series included. Highly recommended; check out this link for more information.
- Thought I'd throw in this photograph taken at the Stillwater Airport (Searcey Field) in Oklahoma in 1945. It shows the famous 303rd BG B-17F Hells Angels, 41-24577, that actually completed 25 missions (before the Memphis Belle) and survived the war. It was put out to pasture and was part of a scrap lot bid that sold in February 1946 to Paul Mantz. The signatures were added in England before the airplane returned to the U.S. in 1943.
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