This B-17 — named “Aluminum Overcast” and delivered in 1945 too late in the war to be used in combat by the Army Air Corps — was flown in Tuesday morning in conjunction with the Wings Over North Georgia Air Show, which takes place at the airport Friday through Sunday.
Tour Coordinator Dale Ensing said the plane started its life about to go to the scrap heap but ended up in operations in Southeast Asia for high altitude mapping missions and even in Alabama helping with fire control. But these days, its mission is to carry people up into the air and let them see a sample of what it was like for the brave crews who flew missions over Europe in the bomber during World War II.
“This one was built by Vega, who later became part of Lockheed,” he said. “The interesting thing is that these are Wright Cyclone engines, but some of them were actually built by Studebaker ... It’s kind of surprising when you come up and look at the engine, and it says Studebaker on the side.”
Built during the war-era when the industries of the United States were geared toward war, the Boeing-model plane was put together with a mish-mash of parts manufactured by companies not traditionally geared toward aircraft production. But to keep the B-17 flying these days, it takes much more than just trying to get the parts from one of many companies.
“We’re actually a member of a B-17 cooperative with other airplanes around the country and one or two in England and France,” said Ensing. “Occasionally we will actually share parts.”
Flying the plane these days, according to pilot Neil Morrison, is like a dream. “I’m an airline pilot by trade and fly a lot of different airplanes on my days off, but it’s nothing like flying a B-17,” he said.
Those interested in taking flights this week will have a chance to sit inside the Flying Fortress. Flights are scheduled daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. today through Sunday and are $475 per person. Ground tours are $10 per person or $20 per family with children 8 and younger, as well as veterans and active military members, free.
And for Morrison and Ensing, it’s the veterans who are the best flyers and tourists on the plane.
“It’s a very emotional connection,” said Ensing. “Sometimes in the beginning they don’t even want to get on the airplane because of the bad memories, and then once they do then sometimes they can’t stop talking.”