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Aluminum Overcast Airborne Again!

March 07, 2006 - At 2:13 p.m. local Tuesday, March 7, the long and meticulous repair project for EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast officially ended when her wheels left Runway 18 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh for a 50-minute test flight. The flight crew consisted of EAA Director of Flight Operations Sean Elliott; B-17 Tour Assistant Director George Daubner; Bob Davis, check airman, and mechanic Vince Hammons.

“The airplane ran just great!” Elliott said. “All four engines were smooth and powerful, it was euphoric to see the aircraft leave the ground again.”

Aluminum Overcast's takes off on March 7 for the first time in nearly 19 months.
Photo by Jim Koepnick

Davis added, “It really brought back a lot of memories, that’s for sure. She flew square and honest. I’ve never seen the airplane look so good.”

On May 5, 2004, the Flying Fortress was heavily damaged as a result of a main gear collapse on its landing roll at Southern California ’s Van Nuys Airport. She was eventually ferried back to Oshkosh that September and the arduous repair process immediately got under way. Last week, almost 19 months and many thousands of man-hours later, the FAA signed off on the repairs to pave the way for Tuesday’s test flight.

Mechanics at EAA’s Kermit Weeks Hangar are relieved to have finished the job.

“We’re very glad it’s finally done. It’s been a tough, long road,” said John Hopkins, Aircraft Maintenance Manager. “It’s really rewarding to see the aircraft up in the air again. Our crew has been great, sticking to the task, and getting all the work done on time, as well as keeping up with our other duties. It’s the most dedicated and difficult repair effort we’ve ever had.

“Today it looks like it was never damaged.” Another test flight is expected Friday this week, then flight training for the 2006 “Keep It Flying B-17 Tour” is set to begin next week. The tour launches on March 31 at San Diego ’s Gillespie Field Airport.

For complete tour information, including reservations, visit www.B17.org.

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