Air Force is restoring both the Memphis Belle and the Swoose

I’m driving from Madison to DC on Friday and coming back Monday, and spent part of today looking into places of interest along the way yo break up the drive.

I look at the website of the Air Force Museum in Dayton, and see there is a tour of the aircraft restoration area about lunch time Friday. And currently they are restoring two B-17s, the Swoose and the Memphis Belle, which are two of the most famous aircraft in history.

I SO want to take that tour. Unfortunately, it shows as being fully booked, so the only way I’ll get in on it is if there are folk on the list who end up being no-shows. Apparently they make a stand-by list the day of the event.


I may have to make the trip one day, just to see a D-model.

Any chance they’ll be restored to flying condition as opposed to just display condition?

It doesn’t say but it seems doubtful. The web page noted that there is another, still-flying B-17 that carries the markings of the Memphis Belle, but that one is not the original plane. The one they are restoring is the original.

Forgot to mention that, according to the site, the original Belle had been a “static” display in Memphis for many years, so it’s not been in flying condition for a looonngg time.

The Belle was vandalized and pretty badly trashed when she was on Mud Island. I was in Memphis a few years ago and was really disappointed to find out that she had been moved. Now I have an excuse to visit the museum in Dayton again…yippee!

Even without that tour, it’s still worth going to the museum. When I was there a few years ago, they had the experimental and presidential planes in a hangar on the actual airbase, so you had to put your name on a list and they would take groups over in buses. That’s the part I would have hated to miss. I’ve seen a B-17 before, but there are planes in that hangar that are one-of-a-kind.

I’ve seen the Swoose, too, just not all together.

Yes, I was there once before, though maybe 20 years or so ago. The thing that struck me most was how all the WWII bombers looked so tiny. I had read so many contemporaneous descriptions of them with phrases like “giants of the sly”, so I was really shocked at how small a B17 was when I stood next to it. 'Course, I came of age in the era of 747s.

Compare a WWII bomber with a modern-day fighter; an F-15 is only about 10 feet shorter than a B-17G.

The Liberty Belle came to Tampa last year and we got to take a tour. It was a tight squeeze in there and I can’t imagine it in combat conditions. You can take a ride on her, but it’s a bit steep. I talked with the pilot and he told me that if she wasn’t leaking oil, then she had no oil to leak! :slight_smile:
Pretty amazing that a machine that old still flies. They give free rides to WWII vets, too.

Is there anything in that link about the Swoose’s namesake?


Yes, yes there is.

I’ve often wondered where the cutoff point is. Can you, over time, change every single piece and still call it a restoration?

There was a debate thread about this once. IMO, yes, and most complex machines are designed for replacement parts. All the Swoose’s engines were changed fairly early in the war. It was common to “cannibalize” planes that were damaged beyond economical repair for parts to repair other planes.

Are there any actual curators or restorers around here that could clarify when one crosses a line from restoring an item into replicating or copying it? Maybe that’s a line right there – if you use any parts from your model, then you are not copying it or replicating it by virtue of the fact that at least some of the original is being “used up” in the process.

I saw a program once that drew comparisons between a German ME-262 restored to flying condition, and a restored Gloster Meteor. They couldn’t use the original German engines because they were so poorly designed that they had a lifespan of only a few hours in the air. The Meteor, however, was running on the very same engines that were put into it 50 plus years ago (though I’m sure there have been replacement parts as part of routine maintenance).

I thought you guys might find this interesting. I rode in a B-17G, the Yankee Lady, earlier this year, and have some of the video uploaded onto YouTube.

The engine startup


These are in HD if you so desire.

It was a AMAZING flight for me. A lifetime dream! I want to do it again sometime, but I’ll take Dramamine first! (I get motion sickness way too easily)

I had an email exchange about getting into Friday’s tour. Unfortunately it entails a three and a half hour time commitment, including getting onto a a bus and going to another site, so there’s no way you can duck out early. So even if a space comes open, I can’t spend that much time on it.

I’ll go there anyway, and spend some time checking out the regular collection.

Deereman, really cool videos! How long a flight did they give you?

I took a flight on the B-17G Nine-O-Nine last year. As a kid who grew up watching “The High And The Mighty” reruns and building tons of model airplanes, the Fortress has always been one of my favorites. The flights are pretty expensive, but it’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had (and the “donation” is tax-deductable!)

Legally, everything but the data plate.

Psst … I think you mean “Twelve O’Clock High”. “The High and the Mighty” features a DC-4.

As the son-in-law of a B-24 crewman, though, I’m required to state the family’s miffedness over the Lib’s utter lack of love from the public. They were more numerous, carried twice the load, higher and farther too, and it isn’t their fault the media types were all in England where the Forts were based instead of Italy and North Africa. But there just aren’t any B-24 movies. 'Tain’t fair nohow.

:smack: Yeah, it was Twelve O’Clock High…the one with Paul Burke and Robert Lansing.:smack:

I think the Collings Foundation’s B-24 is the only one flying. I had to ride the B-17 first, though. Maybe next time I’ll try the Liberator…if I have an extra $425 to “donate”.