Flying Fortress Visiting Ford Airport

July 29, 2004
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OSHKOSH, Wis. — One of the few remaining operational World War II B-17 flying fortress bombers is coming to Grand Rapids in mid-August as part of a national salute to veterans tour.

Sponsoring the four-engine bomber’s visit is the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), based in Oshkosh, which was responding to a request from the local EAA chapter.

During the plane’s Aug. 12-15 visit at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, tours and flights will be available to the public.

The plane — which never saw combat but did ferry Gen. Dwight Eisenhower all over the Far East immediately after the war and later was used by Gen. Douglas MacArthur — is equipped to carry nine passengers.

It is the same type of aircraft that carried the air war to Germany and Japan in World War II and which dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The Grand Rapids visit is among the first of at least 28 stops the plane will make by September in a dozen states in the eastern half of the country.

According to the EAA — a not-for-profit that leases the plane from the National Warplane Museum of Elmira, N.Y. — the tour is an expensive undertaking. Each hour of flight costs about $3,000. One big component of that cost is insurance, which has risen as dramatically for EAA as any other entity.

The plane is financed mainly by tour revenue and personal and corporate donations.

EAA says the per-hour cost of operating the plane does not include about 25,000 volunteer man-hours it receives in support annually.

EAA owns its own B-17, which has been undergoing repairs in California since May when its landing gear was damaged during an otherwise unremarkable landing. It is taking time to repair the damage because many parts now must be fabricated from scratch.

EAA says it costs $40,000 alone to give one of the plane’s engines a routine overhaul.

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