B-17E ‘Desert Rat’ – March 2021 Restoration Update

Image courtesy of Lucas Ryan
FAGEN Restorations

Mike Kellner and his team of volunteers in Morengo, Illinois have been steadily working away on the restoration of Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress 41-2595 for much of the past four decades, and we have covered their remarkable grassroots effort from time to time. Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up on progress with the Vintage Aviation Museum‘s Director, Sean O’Brien, who shared the latest developments with us which we thought our readers would enjoy learning about…

The Desert Rat restoration team has been working on a variety of different things while awaiting the manufacture of new wing spars.  Work on the tail turret has been progressing nicely; the E-11 recoil adapters have been restored and the fabrication and installation of replica .50 caliber guns is now finished.

Well known turret restorer Harland Avezzie has been working on the top turret for us. Unfortunately, we recently determined that the main casting for the top turret cannot be repaired to airworthy standards, so a new casting is now required. Luckily Harland has the capability of performing this task; he will make a new one using the old one as a pattern.

The gun turret casting.

To help raise funds, the restoration team has taken on a few side projects, such as building B-17-related items for sale to collectors. These include such components as bombardier panel boxes and stinger tail gun sights. If anyone is interested in purchasing such items, or commissioning something specific, please do contact us.

As mentioned in a previous update, the original wing spars we have for this project are cracked and unrepairable, so we will need newly-made, airworthy examples for Desert Rat to fly. As seen in the image below, this is just one example of why new spars are needed. This crack is about 20 inches long, on the bottom of the top rear spar, between station 16 and 17. This was likely resulted from either stress or the repeated freeze and thaw from sitting outdoors all those years before we recovered the airframe.

Cracks in the main spar have necessitated their remanufacture.

The wing spars are a major step in the restoration, and while new examples will cost a small fortune, it is very much a doable proposition with help from all of you. While we know times are tough, and we appreciate anything we receive no matter how small, the more people who can pitch in, the easier this will be to achieve… indeed if all of our followers each made a small financial contribution, our goal could be met very quickly. Such a push would enable us to fast-track the remainder of this restoration. Our target is $225,000.

We are a 501c3 non-profit organization so all donations are tax deductible. And for those who have an interest in sponsoring the Desert Rat with a larger contribution, we do have options for this as well.

Our new website is coming along… The old version was heavily outdated and cumbersome to navigate, so we decided to scrap it and make a brand new approach. It will be far more user friendly and come loaded with lots of cool features, including expanded content for the Desert Rat. We expect to complete the new website soon, so please do keep checking back.

Here is a galley of images thanks to Lucas Ryan. To follow Lucas’ photography visit his Instagram page HERE.


Desert Rat is one of three projects within the Vintage Aviation Museum, a 501c3 non-profit organization. If anyone would like to help with these aircraft, they can visit www.vintageaviationmuseum.com to click on the donate button on the front page.

If you wish to contribute to the restoration of these important aircraft, whether it be with parts, labor or cash, please contact the Vintage Aviation Museum HERE to find out how. The organization also has a web store with some cool products to buy HERE as well. Desert Rat also has its own dedicated Facebook page HERE which some of our readers may enjoy viewing too!

1 Comment

  1. The link to donate appears to be broken. I am receiving this error “Something’s not right. This page doesn’t exist.” From paypal

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