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Aluminum Overcast Prepares for Arsenal of Democracy Tribute Flight

  • EAA’s Aluminum Overcast
    EAA’s Aluminum Overcast will participate in the “Arsenal of Democracy” tribute flight over Washington, D.C. on May 8.
  • Dick Johnson and Crew
    Dick Johnson, pictured in the front row, second from the left, will accompany Aluminum Overcast’s “Arsenal of Democracy” tribute flight. He is the sole surviving airman from his crew.

April 29, 2015 - EAA’s B-17G Aluminum Overcast will join other warbirds in our nation’s capital next Friday, May 8, for one of the most magnificent and diverse arrays of World War II aircraft ever assembled. The “Arsenal of Democracy” tribute flight over Washington, D.C. is expected to involve more than 50 airplanes representing at least two dozen different aircraft types to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Formation flights at 1,000 feet AGL will pay tribute to major battles from Pearl Harbor through Victory in Europe (V-E) Day and the final air assault on Japan.

Aluminum Overcast will pair up with the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) B-17 Sentimental Journey to commemorate “Operation Argument,” which became known as “Big Week” - a series of attacks by Allied strategic heavy bombers flying from bases in England and Italy to lay waste to the German aircraft production industry. CAF is also a main coordinator of the flight with a large number of additional airplanes participating in other battle tributes. The 15-part flyover includes tributes to such campaigns as the Doolittle Raid, Battle of Midway, D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, and several others.

“It is obviously a real privilege to perform and provide this tribute to our nation’s greatest generation and EAA is truly honored to participate,” said Sean Elliott, vice president of advocacy and safety. “We are so grateful to be able to preserve this iconic airplane, one of only eight flying examples today, and honor what the greatest generation did. It’s a real credit to EAA and the Warbirds of America who preserve the airplane, to all the chapters who host her while out on tour, and to the membership itself for its continued support of this great legacy.”

Friday’s activities commence at 10:30 a.m. EDT with a wreath laying ceremony performed by WWII veterans and representatives of the United States and the embassies of the Allied Nations at the Freedom Wall of the National WWII Memorial. Following the ceremony, at approximately 12:10 p.m., will be the “Arsenal of Democracy: World War II Victory Capitol Flyover,” as the historically sequenced warbird formations fly in from the west over the Lincoln Memorial Eastward over the mall and on to the Capitol before vectoring south.

Once all 14 battle tribute formations fly past, a final missing man formation will appear to the playing of Taps, a final solemn tribute to all those who fought to defend liberty. The flyover is set to last approximately 40 minutes, organizers said.

Veteran Rides Along: Accompanying the flight aboard Aluminum Overcast will be Richard “Dick” Johnson, a WWII veteran B-17 pilot, of Deale, Maryland. Johnson authored Twenty-Five Milk Runs (And a Few Others), a book about his experiences during the war. He flew 32 combat missions, including two on D-Day, with the 303rd Bomb Group (Hell’s Angels). On one mission his airplane landed safely after absorbing 263 holes from enemy flak.

Johnson wound up with unlimited B-17 ratings and at war’s end provided flight instruction for new pilots. “On V-E Day I was in Tampa, Florida, training pilots,” he recalled.

Johnson flew in an Aluminum Overcast media flight last October during a local tour stop. “Better than I ever saw,” he said describing EAA’s B-17. “The only one as good was during the war; the plane was called Betty Jane.”

On Saturday, May 9, a selection of the planes will be featured at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Washington Dulles International Airport for a one-day exhibition. The display will be open to the public 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. No advance tickets are required.

Prior to the tribute flight, Aluminum Overcast will be staged with other participating bombers at Manassas Regional Airport (HEF), Virginia. Participating fighters will stage at Culpeper, Virginia.

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