B-17 restoration project to take years and thousands of dollars

B-17 restoration continues at museum

The Museum of Aviation is used to dealing with big and historic planes. Since August of 2015, they've been restoring one of America's World War II icons.

It’s called the B-17 Flying Fortress.  

“It appears in movies and television shows and that helps keep it in the public conscience. But it's just one of those airplanes that has really become engrained in the American psyche,” Mike Rowland, the Museum Curator, said.

The work will likely take 8 years and $400,000 to complete. Project Manager Robert Denison says there is a reason for that.

“We got to manufacture a lot of parts, find a lot of parts. It had a lot of corrosion, the airplane sat outside in Indiana since 1961, so the weather has taken its toll on it,” Denison said.

He explained he shops Google, EBay, and other sites for original pieces of the B-17. In fact, he already bought two pieces of the original cockpit instruments from websites.

Right now, the plane sits in pieces. It was de-constructed to get de-painted. 15 workers put in time and intense attention to detail to try and make this plane look like it did in 1945.

For Denison, a veteran of the USAF, the project touches deep.

“It means a lot to me. It's a dedication to the airplanes and when you accomplish something you can really be proud of it and look back and say okay we did that,” he said next to the B-17.

This is not the first project Denison has worked on for the museum. He has helped restore several other planes and the B-17 is now his only project and it takes his complete focus.

Roughly 50 of these planes are left around the world, according to Rowland, making this Central Georgia flying fortress a rare relic of World War II.

As it gets finished piece by piece, the museum is calling it the biggest and most complex restoration they've ever attempted.

The project is being funded entirely by donations. At the end of World War II the B-17 was being sold at a surplus. Now, renovations to the Flying Fortress cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.  

The Museum staff says the B-17 will be a big attraction when it is completed. They say it is already bringing in more guests who want to see the restoration in progress.


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