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Keeping Them Flyin'

B-17 Co-op Group Meets At Oshkosh

Members of the B-17 Co-op Group meeting at EAA in Oshkosh.

October 31, 2007 —Many of the organizations that operate airworthy B-17s, as well as people working on Flying Fortress restoration projects, had representatives at an annual cooperative meeting held over the weekend at EAA headquarters. More than 40 preservers of flying heritage were on hand with a common goal of helping one another keep this important aviation heritage alive. "This is the annual co-op meeting of (B-17) operators, which we've been a part of for many years," said John Hopkins, EAA manager of aircraft maintenance. "It's held annually in various locations and provides the opportunity to share information, ask questions, and kick around new ideas.

"Not one of these groups was representing a static display museum aircraft; everyone either has an airworthy airplane or is working towards an airworthy airplane."

B-17 projects represented included:

  • Fuddy Duddy, B-17G based at John Wayne Airport, Orange County, California
  • Champagne Lady, B-17G, a restoration project in Urbana, Ohio
  • Desert Rat, B-17E (rare), a restoration project in Marengo, Illinois
  • Chuckie, B-17G owned by the Vintage Flying Museum
  • Thunderbird, B-17G owned by the Lone Star Flight Museum
  • Yankee Lady, B-17G owned by the Yankee Air Force
  • Nine-O-Nine, B-17G owned by the Collings Foundation
  • Aluminum Overcast, B-17G owned by EAA
  • Piccadilly Lilly II, B-17G from Planes of Fame, Chino, California

Issues abound when keeping these vintage warhorses in the air. For instance, B-17 tail wheel tires are becoming increasingly rare, a harsh reality that could wind up affecting some operators' ability to fly their airplanes in the coming years. One of the operators reported to the rest of the group on possible solutions that they have been working on. It is this kind of interaction that is truly invaluable to the community as a whole. Other topics included pilot training and testing, various other restoration efforts, and having specialized components manufactured, like custom-made extrusions that may benefit other operators.

"It's a great sharing of knowledge," commented Sean Elliott, EAA's director if aircraft operations. "If we were all operating independently, extending the life of these magnificent airplanes would be much more difficult."

During the Friday session, EAA Founder and Chairman Paul Poberezny (who at age 87 is still type rated in the B-17 and has decades of experience flying the airplane) stopped by to greet attendees. Earl Lawrence, EAA's vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, delivered a regulatory briefing on the status of warbird issues.

While in Oshkosh, attendees took the opportunity to tour EAA's facilities, including the Weeks Hangar, EAA's spare parts inventory, Pioneer Airport, and the EAA AirVenture Museum.

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