- The Washington Times - Friday, October 22, 2004

A World War II-era bomber plane is in Manassas for aerial tours this weekend, giving the public a chance to experience what life was like for soldiers during the war.

The Fuddy Duddy, a B-17 bomber emblazoned with an image of cartoon character Elmer Fudd, is at Manassas Regional Airport today and tomorrow as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s 2004 “Salute to Veterans” national tour. The airplane will visit two airports per week throughout the country through November.

From 9:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., flights will take place on the four-engine plane about every 45 minutes. The flights cost $395 per person, or $355 for members of the EAA.

“The B-17 is one of the most beautiful planes,” said Lewis Clement, 78, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Sterling, Va., who was aboard a demonstration flight with reporters yesterday. “They’re something else. It didn’t carry a lot of bombs or go very fast by today’s standards, but it was a very heavily armed aircraft.”

The tour briefly halted when a landing gear malfunction sidelined EAA’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast. The tour continued with the Fuddy Duddy as a temporary substitute, which is used through an arrangement with the Wings of Eagles Discovery Center (formerly the National Warplane Museum) of Elmira, N.Y., which acquired the plane in 1986.



“The B-17, from a historical perspective, was very instrumental in winning World War II,” EAA local event chairman Richard Largent said. “The chance to fly in one is one of those rare opportunities in life.”

The decades-old bomber’s ride was predictably bumpy at the beginning. The two 50-caliber machine guns in the plane’s waist gunner position rattled and vibrated along with overhead cables and boxes in the plane’s rear.

But the flight eventually smoothed out as the plane got airborne. The gray clouds momentarily gave way to the sun, giving the sky a pristine glow as the aircraft flew over Northern Virginia.

The tour’s jewel is being able to get into the plane’s bombardier’s station under the cockpit, which gives those aboard a bird’s-eye view of what it was like to fly over enemy territory during the war.

The plane, originally named the Wings of Eagles, was built by Douglas Aircraft in 1944 at its Long Beach, Calif., plant and delivered to the Pacific Theater, where it was converted for use as a VIP transport.

The plane was restored to resemble the original Fuddy Duddy, an 8th Air Force B-17G assigned to the 708th Bombardment Squadron, 447th Bomb Group lost in a midair collision over Mannheim, Germany, on Dec. 30, 1944.

Like Aluminum Overcast, the nine-passenger Fuddy Duddy did not see combat and is fully equipped for passenger flights.

“[The tour is] a reminder to the general public of what the B-17 did during World War II,” said Patrick Donovan, director of the local chapter of EAA 186. “It wasn’t built for comfort. This plane was a workhorse.”

In 1946, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower used the aircraft on his tour of the South Pacific. Gen. Douglas MacArthur also used it in the 1950s.

“[The B-17] is considered an antique today,” Mr. Donovan said. “But being a pilot myself, when I hear a four-engine, it’s [beautiful], like an organ.”

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