Margaret downing photo The Journal
This B-17 that visited the Chicago Rockford International Airport is named “Aluminum Overcast.”


B-17 bomber at Chicago/Rockford International Airport over the weekend
By Margaret Downing
Friday through Sunday, May 3 through May 5 the public had the opportunity to see a World War II era Flying Fortress B-17 bomber. Tickets were also available to take an half hour flight on the plane.
The location was at Chicago/Rockford International Airport, Field Location was Emery Air.
According to Bruce Jacobsen of Machesney Park, who is with Viet2Now, of the 12,732 B-17s constructed during the war, approximately one-third never made it to Europe, one-third didn’t make through training exercises, and about one-third actual made it to Europe. One WW II flyer veteran Jacobsen spoke with noted out of the 12 that flew out of Newfoundland, his was the only one to make it to Iceland.
The EAA’s (Experimental Aircraft Association) “Aluminum Overcast” B-17 was designed by Boeing Co., Seattle and was delivered to the Army Air Corps at the end of the war on May 18, 1945.
Per information provided by the EAA, the aircraft required a crew of 10, which included a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, a flight engineer (to turret gunner), a radio operator, two waist gunners, a tail gunner and a ball turret gunner.
The B-17, according to the EAA, is powered by “four 1,200 horsepower Wright Cyclone Model R-1820-97 engines, which are nine cylinder, radial, air cooled type with a 16:9 gear ratio.
“The propellers are three-bladed Hamilton Standard propellers, 11 feet, seven inches in diameter.
“Fuel capacity is 1,700 gallons. Range is 1,850 miles (which could be extended when equipped with ‘Tokyo Tanks,’) which provided a total capacity of 3,630 gallons. Wing span is 103 feet, nine inches; length is 74 feet, four inches; height is 19 feet one inch, service ceiling is 35,600 feet.”
Thirteen Browning M-2 .50 caliber machine guns. Fire rate approximately 13 rounds per
second. No gun on a B-17 carried more than one minute’s supply of ammunition.
*Bomb Load:
Depending on types of bombs, maximum normal load could go to 8,000 lbs. If B-17 was fitted with special external racks, maximum normal short-range bomb load could go as high as 17,600 lbs.
*Number Built:
12,732. Production peaked at 16 airplanes a day in April 1944. Today there are about a dozen B-17’s still flying.
Max. 300 m/ph. at 30,000 ft. Max. continuous 263 mph at 25,000 ft. Cruising speed 170 mph. Landing 74 mph. Rate of Climb 37 minutes to 20,000 feet
*Colors: “398th Bomb Group”
“Aluminum Overcast was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 18, 1945. Although delivered too late to see action in World War II, the airplane has an interesting history. Purchased as surplus from the military inventory for a mere $750 in 1946, the airplane has flown more than one million miles. It has served as a cargo hauler, an aerial mapping platform, and in pest control and forest dusting applications.
“The airplane’s return to its military roots began in 1978, when it was purchased by a group of investors who wished to preserve the heritage of the magnificent B-17. The group, ‘B-17s Around the World,’ was headed by Dr. Bill Harrison. The economic reality of simply maintaining a vintage bomber, let alone the cost of restoration, prompted the group to donate the B-17 to EAA in 1983.
Since that time, an extensive program of restoration and preservation was undertaken to insure Aluminum Overcast would be a living reminder of World War II aviation for many years to come. The restoration took more than 10 years and thousands of hours by dedicated staff and volunteers at EAA’s Oshkosh, Wis. headquarters.
Aluminum Overcast proudly carries the colors of the 398th Bomb Group of World War
II, which flew hundreds of missions over Nazi-held territory during the war. Aluminum
Overcast commemorates B-17G No. 42-102516, which was shot down on its 34th combat
mission over Le Manoir, France, on August 13, 1944. Veterans of the 398th helped finance the bomber’s restoration.
When the airplane was sold in 1946, most of the original military equipment had been
removed. Over the years, many of these items have been located, restored, and returned to Aluminum Overcast. They include:
•The Norden bombsight located in the nose of the airplane
•Restoration of the navigator’s position also located in the nose of the airplane
•Installation of the waist guns located on each side of the bomber
•Rebuilding the radio compartment, including original communications equipment
•Returning the airplane’s floor to its original specifications
•Installation of a complete tail turret assembly
•Installation of a replica top turret just behind the pilot and co-pilot seats
According to the EAA, “the airplane was on display at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh until October 1993 when it was moved to EAA’s Kermit Weeks Flight Research Center for maintenance and restoration in preparation for its first national tour in 1994. “The B-17 will eventually be housed in the EAA AirVenture Museum’s “Eagle Hangar,” which features numerous World War II aircraft and exhibits.
“The B-17 is an important part of both United States and aviation history. It can help us
understand the technology of the times, the era in which the aircraft was developed, and
the human sacrifices that make today’s freedoms possible.
“The plane holds up to 10 passengers. Each flight experience is approximately one hour, of which about 24 minutes is in the air.
“All passengers must be seated for takeoff and landing. Once the aircraft is in the air, you are allowed to move about the aircraft freely to visit the various compartments of the aircraft like the nose, bomb bay, navigation/radio, cockpit, and waist sections. For safety reasons, it is not possible to enter the ball turret or the tail turret. Explore as much as you
like and feel free to take pictures and video. Join EAA and become a member of aviation’s most passionate community. For just $40 a year, you can connect with fellow members and help grow aviation, plus receive 12 issues of our magazine, EAA Sport Aviation. Join Today at”
For more information about the EAA B-17G, see

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