formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

Be sure to read your weekly Liberty Gazette newspaper, free to Liberty area residents!

Monday, May 17, 2010

August 18, 2009 The CAF B17G, "Texas Raiders"

The Liberty Gazette
August 18, 2009

The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely

Mike:
Majestically, she guards a dimly lit hangar on the west side of Houston Hobby airport, just a few doors down from the 1940’s Air Terminal Museum. Her looming presence causes you to wonder just what it would be like to fly her during those dangerous daylight bombing missions over Germany in WWII. She lost her wings to an airworthiness directive eight years ago. Now, Texas Raiders, the Commemorative Air Force’s B-17G entrusted to the Gulf Coast Wing, stands almost ready in anticipation of taking to the sky once more.

One of four types of heavy bombers the U.S. used during WW II, 12,731 B-17s were built by the U.S. mostly over a three year period. Only 15 are flying today. The other bombers still in flyable condition are one B-29, three B-24s, and one PB4Y four-engine Navy patrol bomber.

Unique among the U.S. aircraft, the B-17 had conventional landing gear with a tail-wheel. It came out of Boeing’s airliner lineage and the Boeing 247.

Linda: Even if you don’t know aircraft, look at the vital statistics and you’ll get an idea of the plane’s importance for U.S. victory. Four Wright R-1820-97 Cyclone engines with nine cylinders, 1200 horsepower each; nearly 75 feet long and a nearly 104-foot wingspan. It weighs 65,500 pounds and will carry a bomb payload up to 10,000 pounds. The aircraft’s maximum range is 3,400 miles and flies at an average speed of 200 miles per hour. Turner Classic Movies recently showed "Command Decision" starring Clark Gable and lots of B-17s. Following the death of his wife, Carol Lombard, Gable enlisted because she had wanted him to. He was later a gunner on five missions over Germany.

Mike: The bomber flew with a ten-man crew, most of them gunners. After the war, the B-17s were used for all sorts of jobs; slurry bombers against wild fires, survey, business and cargo aircraft. Texas Raiders was built in 1944 but delivery came July 12, 1945, after VE Day, so she and 19 other B-17Gs were transferred to the U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics and modified to serve as PB-W1 Patrol Bombers.

The gal became a part of the development of the airborne early warning system, and worked as a submarine hunter (AWACS). Eventually, she became a typhoon tracker based at NAS Atsugi in the shadows of Mt. Fuji, Japan, retiring from military service in January 1955, and stored in Arizona until being sold to an aerial survey company. Later she would be fitted with special seismology equipment and used for petroleum exploration. In 1967 Texas Raiders became the property of the Confederate Air Force, now known as the Commemorative Air Force.

Upon acquisition, the CAF conducted a major restoration project with several modifications to place the aircraft back in its original B-17G configuration. In 1972 she was assigned to the CAF’s Gulf Coast Wing, first based in Galveston then moved to Ellington Field and later to Houston Hobby, with a second restoration from 1983 to 1986.

The group of CAF volunteers who are painstakingly restoring Texas Raiders celebrated on May 24 of this year as the aircraft performed its first taxi tests and ran all four engines for the first time in over five years. Test flights should start soon, and hopefully she will be flying in time to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the first flight of the B-17, next year.

Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.

No comments:

Post a Comment