View Full Version : B-17 Restoration in Urbana, Ohio

03-17-2007, 09:15 AM
Here is a photo of some of the tens of thousands of rivets that had to be popped off the skin. Each of the rivets has a very small dimple right in the middle of it. We placed the point of the drill bit in teh dimple, take out some of the rivet and then take a hammer and chisel to whack the rivet head off. If you are lucky the shaft of the rivet falls away. If not, you have to pound it out or drill it out.

All the skin was removed and used as a guide to drill holes for new skin. A new sheet of aluminum is laid on a table and the old skin is placed on top of it and you drill through the old skin to create a new copy.


Here is a large sheet of .032 inch aluminum that has been drilled for new skin on one of the wings.



Here are some photos of the fuselage with the skin removed.






03-17-2007, 09:31 AM
Here are some of the parts that were part of the original plane. Not quite like a model kit.


Some photos of the various parts that are being worked on.






03-17-2007, 09:45 AM
Here are the parts I have been working on the last few months with a few other people.


The aircraft we are restoring was used to test jet engines after the war. On one of the landings the landing gear collapsed and smashed one of the wings. Many of the non-structural wing parts have to be rebuilt.



As with the skin, the old part is used as a template to create the new part. The old is pounded flat and then placed over the new skin and drilled out. The edges and large cutouts are scribed onto the new skin.



A Dremel tool was used to cut the odd shaped cutouts.


The stiffeners are riveted onto the part.



The final part test fitted into place.


03-17-2007, 10:00 AM
WOW!!! Keep taking pictures please that is awesome work you are doing. I wish I had the skillz and the time.

03-17-2007, 10:02 AM
Wow Zeus, that's great looking stuff! I remember seeing a thread a while back about volunteers needed for this project. Glad to see some progress on it! Looks like it's going pretty well huh?

03-17-2007, 10:29 AM
Damn fine post chief.

03-17-2007, 11:17 AM
Unbelievible photo's... they really show the Craftsmanship & Artistry that go's into rebuilding these Bird's and putting them back into the air.

Thank You for the opportunity to see this rebuild. Extremely Mint! http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/11.gif

03-17-2007, 11:33 AM
tell us about the origin of the b17, sounds like one that has been in the gutter, but where exactly

03-17-2007, 11:50 AM
For some of us it really isn't a question of skill so much as being told to go do something and doing it 2, 3 or 6 times before we get it right. It is not uncommon to put 4 or 5 hours into a part and then have something go wrong and you have to scrap it. I had one of those wing parts almost done when a small crack developed near a bend. I had to toss it into the scrap pile and start over.

Here is the 10 foot long metal bending tool. We also have a smaller one that has different size clamps that can be used for bending three dimensional boxes and stuff. I don't have a picture of that right now.


We are years away from needing this, but it's still pretty cool to have one sitting there waiting for us to put it on.


Here is a post that has been cemented into the floor to level the forward part of the fuselage. There are three more for the front and the rear segment has four of its own. The radio room section of the aircraft is completely missing and will have to be scrounged up somewhere or fabricted.


The rear fuselage with new skin colecoed (sp?) into place.


03-17-2007, 11:54 AM
Instead of me answering questions about the specific aircraft, I will just refer you to the website for the project.


03-17-2007, 02:31 PM
http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/clap.gif http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/clap.gif

I wish I lived closer so I could help out.

Tell us, Zeus, have you met anyone that either worked on or flew B-17s during WWII while working there?

03-17-2007, 02:44 PM
Looks like it's coming along Zeus. But c'mon man you've been at it for almost a year now and you haven't finished. Gees http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-wink.gif

03-17-2007, 04:09 PM

Unfortunately, I only work on the plane one day a week after work. People work on the plane every weekday from 8-5 and a lot of people visit at that time. I imagine some vets come through at that time or maybe even show up to work on the plane. Since I have to work my "real" job during the day, I never really meet the "day" crew as all the regulars have gone home by then.

In the summer, we do get people walking through the hanger even at night as we open up all the doors. We are right on the grounds of a municipal airport so people can just walk over from the airport or drive up and park outside. There is no security at the airport since it has no commercial traffic.

To Dubbo,

I think we have been at it for about 15 months. I did take a three week vacation last fall so I guess it is all my fault she ain't flying yet. Seriously, probably about 90 months to go.

03-17-2007, 09:51 PM
It's excellent that your volenteering. I have to say I envy you. I wish I could help with a project like that.

Enjoy it you may never get another chance like this.

BTW - The aluminum brake that you pictured is called a Chicago brake. At least thats what my Dad called it. http://www.americanmachinetools.com/hand_brake.htm

03-18-2007, 01:23 AM
Originally posted by Zeus-cat:
Instead of me answering questions about the specific aircraft, I will just refer you to the website for the project.


Thanks for taking the time to show us all these details, Zeus_cat. That webcam is a good idea. Will have to check it now and again during daylight hours.

03-18-2007, 07:22 AM
The Wright Patterson AFB Museum is currently restoring "Memphis Belle" It can be viewed if you take a behind the scenes tour at the Museum.

The Belle was saved by the good people of Memphis after WWII. It was headed to the scrap heap. It was on display in Memphis and the upkeep just couldn't be afforded by the City.

It was taken to the AFB Museum in Dayton in 6 truck loads. It is estimated to take between 7 to 10 years to fully restore to 100% accuracy.

03-18-2007, 09:52 AM
Great work, wish I lived closer, I'd volenteer for sure.

03-18-2007, 10:41 AM
The Wright Patterson AFB Museum is currently restoring "Memphis Belle" It can be viewed if you take a behind the scenes tour at the Museum.

A number of the people working on the Urbana B-17 have gone down to the museum to see the Memphis Belle to share information on restoration (I had to work when they went, so I couldn't go).

The big difference (in my opinion) is that the B-17 I am working on will fly when we are done.

03-18-2007, 12:16 PM
MMmmmmmm Memphis Belle. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-tongue.gif

Hey ZC, any idea what all the labour would cost if it wasn't volunteer? My hat is always off to the volunteers on these jobs because without them, these projects would never get done. So I guess my hat's off to you too. (Damnit!!)

03-18-2007, 12:50 PM
If I recall correctly the Liberty Belle took 90,000 hours of labor to restore. They are keeping track on this one, but I have no idea what the total labor is to date.

04-06-2007, 04:10 PM
Was that the B-17 that was used for testing the
Allison T-56?


04-06-2007, 05:44 PM
I am fairly certain that it was used for testing a jet engine, I just don't know which of the three jet engines tested was mounted on this aircraft.