World War II Bomber Lands In Rockford For Public Tours

May 3, 2019

One of the last airworthy B-17 bombers stopped in Rockford Friday and Saturday for public tours.

The plane, christened Aluminum Overcast, was built in 1945, and later donated to the Experimental Aircraft Association. One of the visitors was 96-year-old tailgunner Ray Moore of Aurora.  Members of his bomber group, the 398th, helped keep this plane airworthy over the years. 

"Our bomb group paid to have this plane painted and we also put the number 3 engine on it," he said.

EAA Rockford Chapter President Jeff Bonaguro says bomber crews (often men of 18-20 years) worked in close quarters without modern amenities.

"They had to wear leather suits, no air conditioning, no heat, when you're up at 30,000 feet trying not to freeze," he said. "It's just a thin-skinned aircraft."

Despite this, the "Flying Fortress" can hold 8,000 pounds of bombs, and has 12 mounted machine guns to shake off pursuers. EAA continues to exhibit the plane across the Midwest as a piece of living history.