A Flight Into History

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress looked formidable sitting on the rain soaked tarmac ready to take off. Even today, over 70 years after it was first introduced to the European Theater in WWII, this massive bomber appears powerful. This particular B-17 — Aluminum Overcast — however, is no longer a machine of war. Rather, it tours the country as a sort of airborne museum curated by the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA).

This weekend, Aluminum Overcast will be stationed at Essex Country Airport in Fairfield. As part of the “Salute to Veterans” national tour, the EAA will be offering ground tours of the plane and will be taking participants up for a flight into American history. Aluminum Overcast, which was built too close to the end of WWII to have ever seen combat, was sold as army surplus for a mere $750 in 1946. After several decades as a cargo plane and crop duster, Aluminum Overcast was donated to the EAA who spent ten years restoring the plane to it WWII era appearance and functionality.

Although the Aluminum Overcast must use modern radios and navigation equipment to be allowed to fly, the rest of the plane is outfitted with authentic period equipment. From the Norden bombsight located in the nose of the plane to the (unloaded) machine gun sticking out of the tail turret assembly, Aluminum Overcast looks ready to head out over the British Channel on a raid. The plane even uses the Curtiss Right’s Cyclone Engine, which, during WWII, was manufactured just a few miles from Essex County Airport, in Paterson New Jersey.

Among those out to see the B-17 on Thursday was one of New Jersey’s many WWII veterans Dominic Aldi. Aldi, who lives in Wayne, served as a pilot in WWII and was honorably discharged in 1946. The Vet was happy to talk to Baristanet about his experiences as a pilot, both past and current, and was excited to go up in the historic aircraft. Local EAA chapter officer Harry Parsons, from Bloomfield, was also eager to show our reporters around the B-17, and encouraged people to come see and fly in the plane this weekend, saying “We’ll keep going up until there’s no one else who wants to fly.”

For more information on the Aluminum Overcast you can watch the interview below with one of its pilots, Neil Morrison, or read more at www.b17.org. You can also watch an in-flight video from last year’s run, when Baristanet reporter Wheeler Antabanez took a ride.

Be sure to check out, and fly in, this historical monument this weekend at Essex Country Airport in Fairfield. For more information on EAA and its programs, call 800-JOIN-EAA (800-564-6322) or go to www.eaa.org.

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  1. Never mind Baristas…here it is from searching the EAA website:

    Friday – Saturday, August 26-27, 2011

    B-17 Tour Stop
    Event Tag(s): *B-17 Aluminum Overcast *Warbirds
    Caldwell, NJ
    Hosted by EAA Chapter 73

    B-17 location on field:
    35 Wright Way
    Fairfield, NJ 07004

    To book a flight please call 1-800-359-6217.

    Pre-book – for EAA members $399, for non-members $439
    Walk-up – for EAA members $425, for non-members $465

    Self Guided Ground Tours daily from 2-5 pm. Cost $5 per adult, $15 per family. Active Military or Veterans free.

    EAA is offering historic flight experiences in its beautifully restored B-17G Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast.” One of only 14 Fortress’s still flying, this aircraft is an icon of the Allied strategic bombing effort that helped turn the tide of battle in World War II. Unlike reading a history book, you can actually fly a mission back in time and feel the might of this magnificent machine, just as those brave young men did more than 60 years ago.

  2. “Self Guided Ground Tours daily from 2-5 pm. Cost $5 per adult, $15 per family.”

    “Self Guided Ground Tour” Now that’s an odd phrase?

    Sounds like walking around the airplane will cost the family $15.

  3. Many years ago I had a “self-guided tour” of a B-17 in Atlanta. I got to crawl all the way through the plane and up into the cockpit for a few minutes. For me, that was worth $5. There were members of the plane’s crew stationed around the plane to explain the various crew positions and such to us. (and to keep us from breaking anything). So it was only self-guided in the sense that you got to go at your own pace.

    Don’t know if that’s what they mean here, though.

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