The Liberty Gazette
November 8, 2011Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: From U.S. bases in Europe they launched, sometimes staying airborne for more than eight hours striking targets deep within enemy territory. Large V-shaped formations of the heavy bombers cast their ominous shadows as tons of aluminum darkened the skies and the future of those who would do the world harm. These were the Boeing B-17s – the Flying Fortress.
The end of World War II and the dawn of the jet age sent many of these defenders of freedom to scrap yards. Of the 12,732 of Boeing's famous bombers produced, fewer than 100 airframes exist today, and fewer than 15 can still take to the air. One of those is Aluminum Overcast, now owned and operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association. Aluminum Overcast was lovingly restored to flying condition from 1983-1994. Thousands of hours of labor were poured into her restoration. Although this particular B-17 did not see combat (being delivered right at the end of World War II), Aluminum Overcast commemorates B-17G serial #42-102515 which was shot down on its 34th combat mission over Le Manior, France, on August 13, 1944. Veterans of the 398th Bomb Group of World War II, who flew hundreds of missions over Nazi-held territory during the war, helped finance the bomber's restoration, and she proudly carries their colors.
Restoration of this Flying Fortress has included original equipment: the Navigator’s position and Norden bombsight, both located in the airplane’s nose, waist guns on each side of the bomber, and a complete re-build of the radio compartment including original communications equipment. There’s been a full restoration of the tail turret assembly. The top turret, just behind the pilot and co-pilot seats, has been replicated and the floor has been returned to original specifications. The history associated with this airplane gives us so much to appreciate and helps us understand the technology of the times, and the era in which the aircraft was developed. As one of the airplanes that helped bring victory in World War II, the B-17 is a reminder of the sacrifices which make today's freedoms possible.
Linda: Our Houston-based EAA Chapter 12, is proud to host Aluminum Overcast on this year’s national tour. She will arrive at the Sugarland airport November 17 and will be available for tours and rides through November 20. Come on out to Sugarland and feel the legacy of the thousands who heroically flew World War II bombing missions. Take a walk through Aluminum Overcast, and experience the role of bombardier, navigator, and waist gunner. You can even book a flight for the ultimate flight experience. There are 10 seats available for each flight, and it’s first-come, first-served. Ground tours are from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18-20 and cost $5 per person, or $15 per family. Children under 8, Veterans and Active Duty Military personnel will not be charged for the ground tours. Mission flights will be conducted from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. If you’d like to take a 35-minute mission flight in Aluminum Overcast, call 1-800-FLY-NB17 (1-800-359-6217) or online at http://b17.org/. Walk-ups are welcome provided space is available. You can also call the Tour Coordinator directly at (920) 379-4244.
It’s more than just an airplane. It’s a living tribute to the brave men who served, sacrificed, and, in many cases, gave their lives defending our freedom.