WARNER ROBINS, Ga. (AP) — Museum of Aviation officials are hopeful that a longtime goal of getting a B-17 bomber is within reach.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force has asked the museum if it can take a B-17 currently sitting outdoors and put it inside a hangar, said Ken Emery, director of the Museum of Aviation.
Emery, of course, said yes. The museum has long wanted to get a B-17 for its World War II hangar. That was a major reason for building the hangar to start with.
Now Emery is just waiting to get the final word from the national museum, which he said could take a few weeks.
There are several B-17s outdoors at Air Force museums around the country, and Emery said he isn't sure which one the Museum of Aviation might get.
"It would be a huge addition to the collection," Emery said. "When visitors come here, there are two airplanes they routinely ask to see, the SR-71 and the B-17. We have an SR-71, but we don't have a B-17."
One of the most revered aircraft in military history, the B-17 played a key role in taking down the Nazis. Known as the "Flying Fortress" the plane had the ability to take significant damage and still keep flying.
Yet Nazi defenses took a toll on the aircraft. Early in the war, before fighter escort ranges improved, the loss rate for B-17s was 25 percent.
The plane also has a tie to Robins Air Force Base, which worked on B-17s during the war.
If the museum does get the plane, it will face the significant task of dismantling it, bringing it to Robins and reassembling it. Then the plane will undergo a lengthy restoration, but it will be on display as the restoration work is being done, Emery said.
Tom McMichael, Houston County commissioner and chairman of the Museum of Aviation Foundation's board of directors, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that the museum will get a B-17.
"It will mean a tremendous amount for the museum," he said. "There's a limited number of B-17s right now. If we can get it and put it inside, it would preserve it for years to come."
In the past year the museum has been downsizing its aircraft inventory due to Air Force cost cutting. The museum no longer has the staff to maintain many planes that are outdoors. But another reason for the downsizing was so the museum would be in a position to acquire historically significant aircraft like the B-17.
Information from: The Macon Telegraph, http://www.macontelegraph.com