Restoring the B-17 Champaign Lady

b-17 restoration
Close to 90 volunteers at the Champaign Aviation Museum have so far spent seven years returning a single B-17 Flying Fortress to flying condition, and they can always use another Rosie the Riveter. “The door’s open,” project manager Randy Kemp said. “Come get acquainted and see what you like.” Read more of this post

B-17 to Fly Again at Museum

A 30,000-pound B-17E Flying Fortress that was abandoned for more than 50 years in Greenland is being rebuilt as the centerpiece of the new space inside the The Boeing Center at the National World War II Museum.

The aircraft is one of several pieces of equipment, including other airplanes, artillery and tanks, that will be on display in the new pavilion that pays tribute to the industrial efforts that helped to win the war. “It tells the story of America’s industrial might toward the war effort,” said Owen Glendening, the museum’s associate vice president of education and access.

The exhibition space, one of several new areas under construction, will include many interactive features designed to give visitors a new appreciation for the production efforts of the Boeing Co. and others during the war. Of the static displays, though, museum officials are particularly proud of the B-17, called “My Gal Sal,” which sat abandoned for decades in Greenland before it was recovered in the early ’90s.

Thirteen members of the Army Air Forces were in the plane, en route to England, in June 1942 when bad weather forced it to make an emergency landing on an ice cap. Stuck there with an immobilized aircraft and no way to communicate, crew members spent 20 hours sawing off the tips of the propellers to free them from the snow, allowing the plane to power up so radio contact could be made for a rescue, said Tom Czekanski, director of collections and exhibits at the museum.

While the crew was rescued, the aircraft was not, something that was not uncommon during the war when aircraft went down, Glendening and Czekanski said. It wasn’t until 1995 that a private citizen recovered My Gal Sal. By that point in time, many of the Flying Fortresses produced for the war had been reduced to scrap, making the aircraft a rarity. While the B-17 was a “fairly rugged plane” designed to take a certain level of abuse, it was no match for nature, Glendening said. “It was pretty tore up,” Czekanski said of the plane’s condition upon its recovery.

The bomber’s restoration began in 2000 in Cincinnati. Businessman Bob Ready and 23 volunteers spent more than 80,000 hours working on the aircraft before donating it to the museum. There are now 14 people putting the plane back together inside the pavilion after it was recently shipped down in pieces. It will soar nearly 90 feet above visitors’ heads once it is reassembled, Glendening said.

Though none of Sal’s crew members survive today, being able to display the aircraft pays tribute not only to the industrial might of the country, but the spirit of the men who served during the war, Czekanski said.
“It’s amazing to think of 12,000 of these with 10 young men in it. You see it’s just this aluminum,” he said pointing to an open portion of the aircraft that showed just how little there was between the men and the open sky. “The idea that so many Americans were willing to hop into these things is amazing.”

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B-17 ‘Flying Fortress’ in Concord

The Liberty Foundation, a non-profit flying museum, is offering flights in the B-17 “Memphis Belle”, the flying star of the 1989 movie of the same name, this weekend at Concord Regional Airport. The “Flying Fortress” in particular is one of only 13 B-17s that are still flying today.

Media takes part of a special flight on a restored Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” on Monday at the Concord Airport. The B-17 is part of the Liberty Foundation’s 2012 Salute to Veterans tour that will be available for public flights this weekend. Photo by Jon C. Lakey, Salisbury Post.

Tom “Pinky” Funderburk was on one of the two 30-minute flights Liberty Foundation provided for the media last Monday. Funderburk, whose nickname referred to his bright red hair, was a 19-year-old pilot in World War II.
Of Funderburk’s 17 missions, six were food drops over Holland, where regions had been starved by the Germans. Funderburk said his B-17 and scores of others piloted by the British and Americans would drop thousands of pounds of food into fields marked off by white cloth.

Another memorable, non-bombing mission for Funderburk involved the flying of freed French prisoners of war from Austria to Paris. On the bombing missions themselves, Funderburk and his crew returned OK, never being forced to bail out, never running out of fuel, which was always a concern on the return trips after dropping a payload.

Funderburk, a lieutenant during the war, came back to North Carolina and served in the reserves, logging 20 years and retiring as a major. He continued to fly and have a keen interest in aviation in civilian life as he built a Charlotte sales career in mechanical specialty items, such as instruments for pumps.

Retired, the 87-year-old Funderburk now lives in Rock Hill. He already had completed a year at The Citadel when he entered flight training school in Arizona as an 18-year-old. Within 14 months, he had earned his wings and was shipped off to Europe.

The Liberty Foundation’s 2012 Salute to Veterans Tour will be offering flights on the B-17 “Memphis Belle,” the same bomber used in the 1989 movie of the same name.
—- When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
—- Where: Concord Regional Airport, 9000 Aviation Blvd., Concord
—- Cost: $410 for Liberty Foundation members; $450 for non-members.
—- Length of flight: roughly 30 minutes, with the whole experience taking about 45 minutes.
—- Pre-registration: Walk-ins without an appointment on the days of the flights are welcome. You also can choose a time for the flight by calling 918-340-0243, or emailing Scott Maher at
—- The flights will take place generally from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., but the plane will be open for free on-the-ground tours, inside and out, for the rest of the day, as long as people keep coming.

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Trip down memory lane with a restored B-17

Bill Greenwell, 91, wedged himself into the cockpit of a restored B-17 Flying Fortress and pointed to four red buttons. “These red buttons here are feather buttons,” he said, “to feather the engines.” Greenwell flew his 30th and final mission in a B-17 Flying Fortress on June 6, 1944, the epic D-Day invasion that spelled the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. Greenwell  was at the controls of a B-17 appropriately named “Quitting Time.” He flew in support of troops on the ground but never delivered his payload. He couldn’t see through the cloud cover that day. On Monday, it almost sounded like he wanted a second chance. “In my mind, I could handle it,” he said at one point. “I could fly this thing.”

The B-17 was probably the most famous bomber of World War II, flying countless missions over Germany and in the Pacific. The non-profit Liberty Foundation, based in Tulsa, Okla., owns a restored B-17 and is in Hampton Roads this week, offering public flights this weekend from the Chesapeake airport.

Greenwell flew his first mission over Germany on Christmas Eve in 1943. He returned with about 150 holes in his B-17, which was named “Ice Cold Katy” after a popular song of the day. He was required to fly 25 missions when he began service. The requirement was later increased to 30.

On his 30th and final mission, he never got off the ground because the airplane in front of him got stuck. The next day, he found himself participating in one of the greatest military operations in modern history. As he walked onto the tarmac Monday, Greenwell began pointing out features of the restored B-17, which had been repainted to appear as the famous “Memphis Belle.” It was the first B-17 to complete its 25-mission requirement and became popular back in the states. The 1990 film “Memphis Belle” starring Matthew Modine is based on its war service.
The B-17 now in Chesapeake looks like the old Memphis Belle for good reason: It was featured in the film. The aircraft was built in 1945 and never saw combat, but it flew as a transport and a water tanker before its movie role.

According to John Shuttleworth, a pilot for the Liberty Foundation, America produced more than 12,500 B-17s and some 43,000 airmen went down in crashes. About half were killed in action and half were captured as prisoners of war. Today, only a few B-17s are in flying condition, and it costs $4,500 per flight hour to keep the Memphis Belle up and running. That’s one reason why flights for the public aren’t exactly cheap. This weekend, the Liberty Foundation will offer public rides that cost $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members.

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Touring with B-17 to get a glimpse of WWII history

Warren Kimmel had seen photos and movies featuring the B-17 with its .50-caliber machine guns, and have dreamed of serving on one when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1942. But he never got the chance. He was deployed to the China-Burma-India theater of operations, served on other planes as crew chief, and recalls seeing only one B-17, on a runway in Karachi, then in India and now in Pakistan.

Better late than never, Kimmel’s wish came true last August 13, Monday. On board as the lumbering giant taxied down the runway, he was overwhelmed by the moment. “I’m so lucky after all these years – and at my age – to do something as unbelievable as this,” said Kimmel, 87, of Horsham. “This is a dream come true.”

He unbuckled his seatbelt in the back of the plane and started moving forward, past machine guns and the bomb bay. “I never expected that I’d get up here,” he said as he stood in the cockpit, looking down at the Delaware River.

An icon of American power and the star of films such as Twelve O’Clock High and Memphis Belle, there are only a few B-17 left. One of which is nicknamed “Aluminum Overcast” has come to Trenton’s airport for ground tours and flights Tuesday and Wednesday.

The program is part of a series of cross-country stopovers by the Wisconsin-based Experimental Aircraft Association aimed at exposing the public to a revered relic of World War II.

Ground tours are $10 per person and $20 for a family; flights are $475 for association nonmembers. The funds help defray the plane’s expenses. Flying costs $4,000 an hour.

Touring and flying a B-17 “is an emotional experience for many, if not all, of the veterans,” said Sean Elliott, the association’s vice president of air operations, who has flown the bomber for the 176,000-member international organization. Some “come off the plane in tears,” he said.

“Their most impactful memories come screaming back when they’re exposed to the sights, smells and sounds” of Aluminum Overcast, he said. “When you start it, there’s the smell of oil, a poof of blue smoke and sound of the engines.”

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A Flight To Remember


George Cahill, 87, of Mt. Lebanon, a survivor crewman boarded one of the few remaining B-17s on Monday, July 2 at Allegheny Country Airport in West Mifflin to begin several days of tours and history lessons with the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based Liberty Foundation a year after one of the aircraft was badly damaged.

“You never forget that sound,” he said, later finding his way forward to the glass nose of the aircraft where he’d served as an enlisted bombardier and tail gunner with the 390th Bomber Group. “I may never get another chance to get in here.” the enormous B-17 Flying Fortresses are a disappearing breed.

The “Memphis Belle” — a B-17G built in 1945 and restored to resemble the combat-hardened B-17F bomber it was named for — will be parked at the airport next to a restored P-40E fighter on Saturday and Sunday as part of a nationwide living-history tour. The original Memphis Belle was the first B-17 bomber to fly 25 combat missions in the war. It returned to the United States and toured to promote war bonds. The Liberty Foundation flies the aircraft from airport to airport, meets with veterans to stir their nostalgia and help them tell their stories, and sells seats on flights to pay for the planes’ operation and maintenance.

“A fair number of veterans come out,” said David Lyon, one of the foundation’s pilots. “A lot of times, they see this airplane and it brings out a lot of stories they’d never told their families.” Cahill had stories. Once, he said, ice formed a cone 2 feet thick on the front of the bomber and crusted enough of the wings that the pilot could not climb higher. Another time, his navigator turned to talk to him just as a shot traveled cleanly through the deck, between his legs, through his tiny table and map, and out through the wall.

Free ground tours of the B-17 and the P-40 will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days at the West Mifflin airport; Memphis Belle flights can be booked for $450 per person ($410 for foundation members) at Flights aboard the P-40 are $1,150.

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B-17 Flying Fortress Relives World War II Memories

Relics and memorabilia of the World War II era were placed on an exhibit in Andover Historical Society’s Open House at Hampshire, United Kingdom last May 12, 2012. Visitors enjoyed a display of classic aircraft, war birds, corporate jets and helicopters. The exhibit was spearheaded by the Federal Aviation Authority. There were even free plane rides for kids in a private aircraft and a chance to meet the Tuskegee Airmen.

Moreover, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17 Flying Fortress “Alumni Overcast” was available for ground tours and flights. The proceeds for this event will go to the Vintage Aircraft Association Chapter 29 which provides an annual scholarship to a young person between 15 and 21 years of age for flight training toward a pilot certificate.

This one time exhibition will feature a small collection of World War II era objects and archival materials that demonstrate Andover’s involvement on the home front and abroad. Most striking, a gas mask and canvas carrying bag along with many photos reveal the reality of war time era.

The B-17 bomber flew around the Bay Area skies with two veterans aboard. Fremont born-and-bred Art Kimber flew 39 combat missions, between January 1945 and May 1945, over northern Italy with the 89th Bombardment Squadron, 340th Bomb Group, 12th Air Force as a B-25 pilot/co-pilot. His squadron’s job was to disrupt the supply lines between Italy and Germany and came to be known as “The Dental Squadron” because of their “bridge work.” Initially based on Corsica, Kimber’s squadron moved its base to Rimini as the battle-lines moved northwards.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed in the 1930 for the United States Army Air Corps. The B-17 is known as a  heavy and strategic bomber that was primarily employed in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against the German industrial and military targets.

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After 67 years, B-17 World War II Pilot Honored for Heroism

On Valentine’s Day 1945, a crew of B-17 Bomber survived an emergency landing on a rugged terrain in Czechoslovakia. The 11-man crew owe their lives to the heroism of B-17 pilot Elmer Wulf.

Hugh “Robbie” Robinson, Wulf’s co-pilot on that day, recalled how Wulf kept the B-17 Bomber in the air as it lost its engines one by one. When only one engine was left, Wulf ordered his crew to parachute out before crash landing the aircraft. Robinson said that Wulf was driven by his belief that they can survive and would not be captured by the Germans.

After 67 years, Elmer Wulf’s heroism is finally recognized with the Distinguished Flying Cross, a prestigious military aviation award. The award makes lines him up with other legendary pilots like Charles Lindbergh, the first recipient of the award.

“The Distinguished Flying Cross represents heroism at its finest. The Air Force awards this cross to those who, in combat, demonstrate heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in an aerial fight,” U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert said, “So there’s no doubt that on Feb. 14, 1945, Elmer’s bravery knew no bounds.”

The Distuinguished Flying Cross is usually given to the recipient soon after the event by their supervisors. But since it did not happen in Wulf’s case, it took a nomination of one of his crew members and three years of correspondence between the Air Force and Biggert’s office to bring him the recognition. The nomination came from Charles Majors, radar operator for the Valentine’s Day mission.

U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert presented Wulf’s award to his wife, Jane Wulf. Elmer Wulf died two years ago at age 84.

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Learn to Crew a B-17 Flying Fortress

Have you ever dreamed of flying a B-17 Flying Fortress? The famous warplane is a favourite among airplane enthusiasts for all the feats it had accomplished during World War II. Decades may have passed since World War II, but you can still have a chance to experience to fly on a B-17. The Museum of Flight at Boeing Field is offering a two-day ground course that includes a flight on a B-17 Flying Fortress.

Participants of the course will learn everything about the ins and outs of maintaining B-17 Flying Fortress. It includes detailed lectures on the design, construction, operation and performance of the aircraft. Participants will also climb aboard the B-17 lead by the museum’s restoration team. The last part of the course is a flight on a B-17 Flying Fortress from the Experimental Aircraft Association. The course will run on May 19 and 20.

If you are interested in beaing a crew for a B-17 Flying Fortres just contact Boeing’s Museum of Flight Public Programs Department.

More information is available on

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WWII B-17 displayed in Auburn


A World War II B-17 bomber is on display at the DeKalb County Airport, Auburn.

“The B-17 represents everything that is good about America,” said Dan Bowlin, a pilot with the Experimental Aircraft Association, based out of Oshkosh, Wis. “This is the airplane that helped win World War II, along with the B-24.”

EAA tour coordinator, Tim Fox, said putting the bombers on display allows the public to connect with the veterans.

“Dad was a pilot, or dad was a gunner, or was a navigator,” said Fox. “And they just want to go on a ride in the airplane and try to understand what happened, and what that time was like.”

On Monday, nearly 50 people came out to see the B-17, including World War II veteran, Harold Meiser of Rochester. Meiser spent six months as a prisoner, and was released at the end of the war.

“The plane speaks for itself,” said Meiser, who was captured by the Germans in November of 1944. “Four of us got out. Four or five didn’t get out, and I evaded them for five days on the ground. The others were all injured, and they couldn’t walk.”

B-17s were flown by the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), throughout the American participation in the Second World War. They were used by the US Eighth Air Force, based in the UK, to bombard German targets in Europe during daylight hours, a method which resulted initially in very heavy losses of aircraft and crew. As B-17 refinements progressed, along with better pilot training and tactics, it would become a formidable adversary in the Allied war against Germany.

Source:, aviation-history