By Austin Hancock
Woods Cross, UT – The B-17E “Desert Rat” project has come a long way in recent years. Once a “mystery Boeing in a barn,” the project has since teamed up with the Vintage Aviation Museum. The VAM also holds title to an earlier B-17C model, which in addition to the “Rat,” they plan on restoring to flight status. With plans to eventually fly two B-17 models that are not currently gracing the skies, the VAM has a unique and inspiring mission.
The latest report from crew-member, Sean, is that 2017 looks to be a promising one for the B-17. “Restoration is progressing nicely, the structural rebuild of the fuselage is about 95% complete and work has now moved on to the wings. Mike Kellner and the restoration team have been working hard. It will not be long and we will begin working on outfitting the inside of the airplane, but before we begin that phase we do still need to acquire and or build a few more components.” The “Desert Rat” needs pilot-seats, and they are actively seeking leads on where to acquire them.
The fuselage has seen work “tying up loose ends.” Plexiglass work has commenced, as the frame for the nose-glass has been removed to allow for installation of it’s windows eventually. The cockpit is very near completion, needing “just a few more rivets.” Moving aft-ward, the bomb-bay will soon gain it’s catwalk truss, which will be newly-made. The radio room recently had it’s camera well installed in the floor, and at the very end of the “Desert Rat,” the tail-wheel well and walkway have been put in place. The “stinger” tail-turret is almost completed, as well.
A B-17 is not very airworthy without wings, and the team has taken note of this. Work has commenced on the “Desert Rat’s” lift-generators, the wings have been disassembled for assessment. “New components are being made and installed as of this writing,” reports Sean. Harland Avezzie, of North American Restorations, is currently working on the B-17’s ball-turret. He is well known for his turret-work, and the end result should be fantastic.