WARNER ROBINS -- One of the most sought-after prizes in the history of the Museum of Aviation is now on view for the general public.
The fuselage of a B-17G bomber arrived at the museum shortly before noon Thursday. After some photos with local leaders as well some Bibb County students who happened to be at the museum, a crew unloaded it.
The plane has been outdoors for 54 years, and it will remain so just a bit longer. The fuselage needs some cleaning before it is moved into the Scott World War II Hangar. The cleaning will be done over the next few days, and the plane is likely to be moved into the hangar early next week.
There, it will become the first restoration project in the museum’s history to be on public display. But until then the fuselage can be seen behind the Scott Hangar.
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The restoration is expected to take years, and it may be another year or more before the plane is fully reassembled.
After pulling off Interstate 75 at the Russell Parkway exit, the truck hauling the iconic aircraft stopped while museum workers put banners on the side. There were a few people along the road to welcome it.
One of those was Richard Ballard, of Perry, who waited at the Russell Parkway bridge over Interstate 75 to get a look at it.
“They’ve been wanting one these for years,” he said. “It’s taken all this time to get one, so I figured I would come down here and see it.”
Other parts of the aircraft had already arrived from the plane’s former home at Grissom Air Museum in Peru, Indiana, and one more load is expected next week.
Museum Director Ken Emery counted the plane among the museum’s top three acquisitions ever, along with the SR-71 spy plane and the P-40 World War II fighter.
“There’s nothing like a classic, World War II, famous bomber to be here and part of the collection,” Emery said after the plane arrived.
Emery said the museum probably will not keep the B-17’s “Miss Liberty Belle” nickname. He said that was not a flying name but was given it by the folks at Grissom Air Museum. For that reason, the Museum of Aviation is looking to rename it in honor of some other B-17G that served in World War II.
Dozens of students from Bruce Elementary School in Macon happened were at the museum Thursday, and they got an impromptu living history lesson. The students had their photo taken by the plane and with Crawford Hicks. Hicks flew a B-17 in World War II, was shot down and was taken prisoner by the Germans. The students asked him some questions about the plane, including how he would get into it, and he showed the two doors that crew members used.
To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.