How Man Acquired B-17 for Gas Station
By Bob Steenbock
Shortly after World War II, a guy named Art Lacey went to Kansas to buy a surplus B-17. His idea was to fly it back to Oregon, jack it up in the air and make a gas station out of it.
He paid $15,000 for the airframe. He asked which one was his and they said take whichever you want because there were miles of them. He didn't know how to fly a 4-engine airplane so he read the manual while he taxied around by himself. They said he couldn't take off alone so he put a mannequin in the co-pilot's seat and off he went.
He flew around a bit to get the feel of it and when he went to land he realized he needed a co-pilot to lower the landing gear. He crashed and totaled his plane and another on the ground. They wrote them both off as "wind damaged" and told him to pick out another.
He talked a friend into being his co-pilot and off they went. They flew to Palm Springs where Lacey wrote a hot check for gas. Then they headed for Oregon. They hit a snow storm and couldn't find their way, so they went down below 1,000 feet and followed the railroad tracks. His partner sat in the nose section and would yell, "TUNNEL" when he saw one and Lacey would climb over the mountain.
They landed safely, he made good the hot check he wrote, and they started getting permits to move a B-17 on the state highway. The highway department repeatedly denied his permit and fought him tooth and nail for a long time, so late one Saturday night, he just moved it himself. He got a $10 ticket from the police for having too wide a load.