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Hal Weekley, B-17 Pilot, Passes Away

Hal Weekley
Hal Weekley pictured with EAA’s Aluminum Overcast, painted to represent his ship within the 398th Bomb Group during WWII.

September 23, 2010 — EAA is mourning the loss of Col. Harold “Hal” Weekley (Ret.), EAA 169329 and Warbirds of America 2651, who died Wednesday, September 22, at Wellstar Cobb Hospital, Austell, Georgia. He was 89.

Hal, a U.S. Army Air Forces B-17 pilot during World War II, flew many missions over Germany before being shot down over occupied France. He evaded capture for three weeks thanks to local French people, and eventually returned to friendly lines. Hal is perhaps best remembered by EAAers as one of the association’s volunteer B-17 pilots. He flew Aluminum Overcast for 23 years (1979-2001), first with then-owner Dr. Bill Harrison, past president of EAA Warbirds of America and EAA director, and later, after Harrison donated the airplane to EAA.

“He was a good friend for many years,” Harrison said, recalling how Hal, as an FAA employee in the late 1970s, earned a civilian type rating for the B-17 then, on the same day, signed off on his. “We flew together for many years. We had so many great experiences together. He was a big part of my life and I’ll miss him.”

Hal also helped another well-known aviator, EAA Founder Paul Poberezny, earn his B-17 type rating. “I came to know him in Tullahoma, Oklahoma, at an EAA Fly-in,” Paul recalled. “I needed a type rating and asked if he would ride with me. We flew for about an hour and a half, I got my type rating, and we were friends ever since. Hal was jovial, loved people, and loved EAA.”

Hal was among of the last Flying Fortress commanders from WWII - and the very last combat B-17 First Pilot of WWII - to fly as B-17 pilot in command in the new millennium. He made his last B-17 flight at AirVenture 2001, a week after his 80th birthday.

“All of us within EAA’s flight department will dearly miss him,” said Sean Elliott, EAA director of flight operations. “We are truly blessed to carry on his legacy with EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast, which is painted to represent Hal’s ship within the 398th Bomb Group. Keeping her in the air was as important to Hal as it is to all of us.” Hal’s name is also on the side of the airplane under the pilot’s window. 

Over the years, many AirVenture attendees heard Hal’s very moving presentations at the annual Oshkosh convention about flying B-17 bombing missions during WWII. This past summer he spoke at Theater in the Woods during a special program held on July 28, the 75th anniversary of the B-17’s first flight.

After the war, Hal returned to the U.S. and became a B-17 instructor and later a USAF jet instructor. He retired from the air force after 26 years and joined the FAA as an operations inspector and accident investigator. After 14 years he flew a four-engine jet around the world for three years before becoming a consultant and author.

Hal’s book, The Last of the Combat B-17 Drivers, was published in 2007 and combines his keen recollections with documented historical facts to describe his experiences.

 
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