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Her Visit to Brantford, Ontario

Memphis Belle nose art

Okay....so it's not the REAL Memphis Belle!....THAT Illustrious bomber is in her usual home, on display,  in  Memphis Tennessee.

The aircraft causing so much interest in Brantford this year  is actually the one that PLAYED the Memphis Belle in the 1989 Movie of the same name, starring Mathew Modine. 

The original Memphis Belle was a B-17F model, the type in use when she became the first to complete 25 missions and return her crew home safely on May 17, 1943. She was further immortalized because the famed Hollywood director, William Wilder, made a ground breaking documentary film of her last flight. (it was actually filmed over several missions). Catherine Wilder, William's daughter was a producer of the re-make in '89.

The original aircraft and her crew also increased their fame by going on tour back in the US to raise money for war bonds. She was a B-17F of 91st GB, 324th BS, based at Bassingbourne, England. Her pilot was Captain Robert K. Morgan.

 


The aircraft in Brantford actually started life as a B-17G model, built in 1944. She was in England as a reserve, but never saw actual combat. After the war, she went on to a workhorse career as a tanker. Eventually, she was acquired by the Dave Tallichet Collection in California, in whose care she remains today.

Her movie role as the Belle required a restoration back to "F" appearance, so she traded the chin turret of a G type for an F type nose. She also got the  olive and brown drab paint job of the earlier type, complete with the original crew member names and kill markings, and, of course, what is probably the most famous piece of nose art ever done ...."The Memphis Belle", based on the vintage "Petty Girl" pinup. (Since the movie, the very "Hollywood" flowing script used for the name has been replaced with a copy of the original block letters). This aircraft is unique in that its original Sperry upper and ball turrets are fully operational.


Recently, problems were found with the wing attachment points of B-17's. Parts were found to be prone to corrosion deterioration due to the mating of dissimilar materials. This wasn't a problem originally, but after a half century unforeseen things do crop up!

The U.S. government issued a directive, ordering all flying B-17's to have this problem addressed.

When Dave Tallichet was looking for someone to do structural work on another aircraft of his, a DC-3, the name GODERICH AIRCRAFT INC. in Canada kept cropping up as being the best. So, when the work on his B-17 became necessary, he sent it up to one of their locations in Brantford to have it done. It arrived in early April, 2002, flying there directly from an air show in Georgia.

When it was disassembled, five of the eight wing attachment points were found to need work. (mostly hairline cracks in the spars) The work to be done involves replacing spars, splicing in some new material, new terminal pins,  and adding gussets, where necessary.

Since the correct alloy for the spars is no longer available, a special batch had to be poured by the ALCOA Company. Some of the cost will be shared by the owners of other flying B-17's as they will all be requiring the retrofit.

If all goes well, she should be back in the air by late October.

- Lance Russwurm

CLICK on a pic to enlarge

Two of the wing mounting points A spar- showing cracks More cracks, in a pin receptacle
A terminal pin, in place in the starboard wing A custom made batch of new spar material, awaiting further work refurbished and new parts awaiting installation

The crew mainly responsible for the project:

Left: Joe Estevez, Right: Paul Hill and centre: Project director, Terry Clarridge

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO TOUR OF THE AIRCRAFT

 

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