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EAA's B-17 heads to Oshkosh for repairs after Hurricane Ian damage

Photos from EAAEAA's iconic B-17 Aluminum Overcast is headed home to Oshkosh for repairs. The plane has been in Florida awaiting repairs, sustaining minor damages during Hurricane Ian and narrowly avoiding tornadoes a short time later. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress has been in Punta Gorda, Florida since March 2021, after a routine inspection revealed a crack stemming from the left sheer web, a secondary support structure for the wing. The only way to repair the damage is by removing the wing, which involved the discovery of other repairs that were needed. Proper parts for a vintage WWII bomber are specially manufactured for repairs, taking time before the plane can be fixed. While waiting in Florida for repairs, hurricane Ian came ashore, going through the area of the Gulf Coast where the B-17 was waiting. The hangar that held the plane suffered substantial damage and fortunately, only a small piece of the structure hit the tail second of the plane, which is repairable. "We were incredibly fortunate that the aircraft did not suffer any major damage, from what early indications tell us," EAA CEO and chairman of the board Jack J. Pelton said. "Our thanks to Arcadia Aerospace Industries for looking after the airplane and taking all the precautions they could prior to the storm's landfall and during the event." The plane was disassembled and loaded onto several trucks, small sections heading to Wisconsin on Monday and the rest following throughout the week. Once all the parts arrive at the Weeks Hangar, the repairs and reassembly will continue. Repairs for this plane could take most of the year, with hopes of having it ready for flight testing in 2024. "The EAA teams, our dedicated volunteers, and Florida Air Recovery in Punta Gorda have devoted thousands of hours to this project over the past two years, and we were gratified for their devoted efforts," Jeff Toline, EAA's Director of aircraft operations and maintenance, said. "At this point, it was deemed the best way to complete the task was to bring the airplane back to Oshkosh, so all the necessary resources could be immediately available." The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was a WWII bomber, primarily used in Europe. Between 1935 and May 1945, 12,732 B-17s were produced and of those, 4,735 were lost during combat missions. With advancing technology, the bomber was replaced after the end of the war and most B-17s were cut up for scrap, used for Air Force research or sold. EAA's B-17G-VE, serial number 44-85740, was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 18, 1945. It was delivered too late to see action in WWII but has had a long history since delivery. The plane was purchased as surplus from military inventory for $750 in 1946. It has flown over one million miles, served as a cargo hauler, been an aerial mapping platform and flown in pest control and forest dusting applications. It was purchased by a group of investors wishing to preserve the heritage of the B-17 in 1978, returning to its military roots. The group, "B-17s Around the World," faced with the high economic output for owning a vintage aircraft, donated the plane to EAA in 1983. Since it joined the collection of aircraft owned by the EAA, an extensive program has been created for the restoration and preservation began to preserve the Aluminum Overcast. With over ten years of restorative work and thousands of hours donated by dedicated staff and volunteers at EAA headquarters, the restored plane is a representation of WWII aviation. Restorations for the plane include the Norden bombsight, restoration of the navigator's position, installation of the waist guns, rebuilding the radio compartment, returning the floor to the original specifications, installation of a complete tail turret assembly and installation of a replica top turret just behind the pilot and co-pilot seats. The plane was on display at the EAA AirVenture Museum until October 1993, when it was moved to EAA's Kermit Weeks Flight Research Center for maintenance and restoration before a national tour. The first tour for the EAA's B-17 was in 1994 and was paused upon the discovery of the first crack in 2021. The plane will end its journey, housed in the EAA AirVenture Museum's "Eagle Hangar" which features many WWII aircraft and exhibits.
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