Bringing a B-17 back to life
“It started off as a restoration,” Albers said of the project, which began in 2005. “I think it’s a misnomer. It’s a construction. This is new, an Experimental class.”
That’s because Champaign Lady is being pieced together with parts from other airframes—including a B-17 that crashed in Talkeetna, Alaska, in 1951—as well as parts built from scratch by the volunteers, who use specifications from the original drawings to guide them. The aircraft’s top gun turret was discovered under the porch of a Springfield, Ohio, resident’s home. “She thought it was a TV,” Albers said.
Albers, born in 1940, served in the Dutch Air Force and came to the United States in 1965.
“I loved this country right from the start,” he said.
He feels a connection to the B-17 and believes that volunteering on Champaign Lady is a way of giving back to the country that “gave so much to so many.”
Albers happened to be at the museum one afternoon when a World War II veteran from Franklin, Ohio, stopped by Grimes Field to see the project. Bill Kohr was a turret gun sight specialist on the B-17 and B-24 Liberator. Kohr served in the 8th Air Force, 3rd Division, 34th Group—and he had been a member of the one of the crews who dropped food during Operation Chowhound.
Champaign Lady’s restoration may last until 2023. She is intended to be a flying aircraft, joining the museum’s fully restored North American B-25 Mitchell, Champaign Gal, and its Stinson 10A. A Douglas C-47, Fairchild F-24, Douglas A-26 Invader, and Beechcraft C-45 Expeditor are on static display. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. To learn how you can support the B-17 restoration project, see the website.
Link to AOPA: Bringing a B-17 back to life - AOPA