Memphis Belle’s restoration continues to move closer to finish line

Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 9:26 AM


            Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. Plans call for the aircraft to be placed on permanent public display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 17. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ken LaRock)
Museum of the U.S. Air Force restoration crews continue the painting process on the Boeing B-17F Memphis Belle. Plans call for the aircraft to be placed on permanent public display in the WWII Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on May 17. (U.S. Air Force photos/Ken LaRock)

Restoration on the B-17F Memphis Belle – the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to return to the United States after completing 25 missions over Europe – continues to move forward at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Since the aircraft first arrived at the museum in 2005, museum staff and volunteers have worked meticulously for countless hours to preserve the iconic bomber, which was in great need of corrosion treatment, the full outfitting of an extensive list of missing equipment, and having the proper paints and techniques applied.

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One of the first challenges for restoring the aircraft was to obtain a list of missing parts, determine what could be obtained from a similar aircraft, and then try to fabricate the rest.

According to Casey Simmons, a Restoration Specialist at the museum, obtaining parts for a 1940s-era aircraft was not an easy task.

“For any of the parts that we needed on the airplane, if you can’t get another one from another aircraft you have to completely fabricate the part,” said Simmons. “So that means going to the blueprints, figuring out what goes into that, how they did it and trying to re-create that process.”

Some of the parts that had to be fabricated by the Restoration Division included the gun mounts; all of the flooring; new sheet metal on the right vertical stabilizer and left bomb-bay door; the wind screen and eyebrow glass in the cockpit; a fuselage longeron and rear vertical stabilizer spar.

One of the parts that Simmons helped to fabricate was the glycol heater, which went inside the left wing of the aircraft and provided heat for the cabin.

“No one will ever see it but we had to completely fabricate that from scratch and it is fully functional,” said Simmons. “But I know the work that went into it and I know where it’s at so it’s pretty neat.”

Among the most challenging aspects of the restoration of the Memphis Belle was painting the aircraft. The painting process lasted several months with plans calling for the aircraft to look as it did after completing its 25th mission, but before it went on the war bond tour. Authentic paint for the time period was used so that the aircraft would look as close as possible to that period in time.

“We were looking at pictures down to the single rivets on the aircraft to try to get markings where they belong,” said Simmons. “You have a lot of different images from different sources, and you’re trying to match colors but the color in every photograph is just a little different depending on how the film was developed. So the hardest part is getting it exactly the way it needs to be.”

Even in going to those lengths, the color on the vertical tail and control surfaces are slightly different shades of green than the rest of the aircraft and Simmons has an explanation for that too.

“When the aircraft first came out of the factory, it would have been pretty much one color of green,” said Simmons. “However, as you can see in the photographs from that time period after it completed its 25th mission, the paint began to fade and so we had to replicate that as well.”

Museum Curator Jeff Duford, who led efforts to research the colors and markings on the Memphis Belle, discovered that although the paint on the tail faded over time, the paint that’s on the fabric-covered control surfaces faded faster and to a greater degree than the rest of the aircraft. So the museum team worked until they got those colors right as well.

“We actually mixed 25 different samples to get to the right shade of green to ensure that the color is accurate,” said Duford.

To a large extent, Duford credits the 1944 William Wyler film, “The Memphis Belle,” as the reason why so much information about the aircraft was available. Wyler volunteered to serve the country and the Army Air Forces gave him a commission as a major and sent him over to England to film heavy bomber operations. He brought a camera crew with him and they shot hours and hours of color footage of heavy bomber operations, including some scenes in combat.

“In the film, you see aircraft dropping bombs, aircraft getting shot down, German fighters attacking them and real flak” said Duford. “So Wyler and his cameramen were taking the very same risks that the bombing crewmen were, and in fact one of them was killed in a combat mission.”

Wyler’s team shot more than 11 hours of color footage, which is now preserved in the national archives and the museum obtained a copy of it.

“Because of this color footage, we’re able to correctly mark and configure the aircraft today,” said Duford. “It is truly astounding because we’ve worked on many restorations here and by far there is more evidence about the Memphis Belle because of these out-takes than any other restoration that we’ve done.”

In addition, the museum also obtained copies of more than 5,000 original documents related to the combat history of the Memphis Belle and heavy bomber operations, which provided a wealth of information including details on each crewmember and mission.

According to Duford, all of the time and effort spent on all of the details to accurately restore the aircraft - from its structural parts to the paint that’s used to color its appearance – is what this national treasure deserves.

“We have symbols in the history of our country – things like the flag that flew at Iwo Jima; the battleship Arizona – these recognizable symbols of the American experience, and the Memphis Belle is truly one of those icons in our history,” said Duford. “And now fittingly so, the aircraft will be preserved at the Air Force’s national museum for generations to come.”

Although restoring the Memphis Belle has been a long and strenuous process – which will continue in the interior of the aircraft even after it has been placed on display – it’s also been very rewarding as well, said Simmons.

“When I first got here in 2007, the aircraft was in multiple pieces – just individual bare metal sections of the aircraft,” said Simmons. “Now it is a complete aircraft that actually looks like something, and it’s just the biggest transformation that you could ever imagine.”

Plans call for the B-17F Memphis Belle exhibit to open to the public on May 17 with celebratory events May 17-19. This three-day event will include a WWII-era aircraft static displays, flyovers, WWII reenactors and vehicles, memorabilia and artifact displays, music from the era, related guest speakers for lectures, book signings and films, including both Memphis Belle films in the Air Force Museum Theatre.

For more information, photos and videos of the Memphis Belle, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/MuseumExhibits/FactSheets/Display/tabid/509/Article/195966/boeing-b-17f-memphis-belle.aspx.

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.

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Teen held in slaying of Dayton mom in front of two kids

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 10:26 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 11:52 AM

Connected to Lorenz Avenue homicide

A 17-year-old male accused of fatally shooting a Dayton mother in front of two young children will remain in custody following a detention hearing Saturday morning. 

RELATED: Coroner: Victim in Lorenz Ave. shooting dies, identified

The teen, who was arrested and placed in detention Friday, is suspected of killing 22-year-old Keyona Murray, who was shot in the head in a home on the 100 block of Lorenz Ave. in Dayton on Feb. 16. 

 Neighbors and a 911 caller who reported Murray’s shooting said the gunfire came from outside the home, in a back alley. 

 Murray, who died at Miami Valley Hospital, was shot in front of her 2-year-old child and her 2-year-old nephew. A candlelight vigil was held for her earlier this week outside the home where she was wounded. 

On Saturday, the teen suspect denied a charge of murder and felony burglary at hearing in Montgomery County Juvenile Court. 

Keyona Murray, shot and killed in an incident Feb. 16, 2018, at a home in the 100 block of Lorenz Avenue in Dayton. (Courtesy/Miami Valley Crime Stoppers)

The teen will appear in court for a preliminary conference on the morning of March 9 before Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi. Police said the suspect was taken into custody after being found at a residence on Gard Avenue in Dayton. 

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The suspect has a fairly lengthy criminal record , according to juvenile court officials. 

The suspect successfully completed about three months of probation on about Jan. 25 related to a misdemeanor theft charge in Greene County, juvenile court officials said.  

Court officials previously said he had been in trouble before on charges that include delinquency by reason of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. 

He served probation in 2013 related to an attempted burglary charge. In 2015, he was given probation again, with a suspended commitment to the state juvenile correctional system, after another burglary charge. Both charges were felonies.  

In addition to the murder charge, the suspect faces a pending felony-level burglary charge.  

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Janice Meadows, who has lived on Lorenz Avenue for 30 years, called 911 on Feb. 16 after hearing gunshots outside.  

“I knew the gunshots were close from how loud it was,” she said. “I thought someone was shooting toward my house — it sounded that close.”  

Meadows lives a couple doors down from where Murray was shot. Murray moved into the rental home around the end of summer, she said.  

“We’re really sorry we didn’t have time to get to know them,” she said. “It’s such a tragedy.” 

Meadows says it’s a safe neighborhood because the residents know each other and most have lived there for many years. 

Sometimes, she said, small groups of people hang out on the streets or corners, but neighbors will call the police if there’s too much activity. 

 “We’ll call because we’ve got children and grandchildren,” she said.

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Heavy rain moves out tonight but flood alerts continue

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 5:32 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 10:05 PM

Both strong winds and heavy rain are likely this evening in the Dayton area.

The heavy rain threat will come to an end overnight as the storm system moves to our east, but a few lingering showers will be possible through daybreak Sunday, Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar said. Temperatures will be steady in the middle to upper 40s overnight.

QUICK-LOOK FORECAST

  • Flash Flood Warning until 2:15 a.m. for part of Warren County
  • Flood Watch until 10 a.m. Sunday for entire region
  • Flood Warning for parts of Greene and Warren counties along the Little Miami River
  • Along Great Miami River, Flood Warning from 11:18 p.m. to 7:32 p.m. Monday in Sidney in Shelby County; from 4:36 a.m. Sunday to 8:30 p.m. Monday near Middletown in Butler County

>> Weekend brings more rain, threat for strong storms

5 Day Forecast with Meteorologist Brett Collar

>> Great Miami River expected to crest this weekend; where will flooding occur?

Sunday: A pre-dawn shower is possible early, but aside from that clouds will decrease to allow for some afternoon sunshine with highs in the lower 50s. It’s also going to be a windy day with winds gusting over 30 mph at times.

Severe Weather Threats(Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar)

>> WHIO Live Doppler 7 HD Interactive Radar

Monday: Mostly sunny skies are expected with highs in the lower to middle 50s.

Tuesday: We get back into the upper 50s with mostly sunny skies.

A Flood Watch is in effect until 10 a.m. Sunday for the entire region(Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar)

Wednesday: The chance for rain returns in the afternoon and evening. Highs will be in the upper 50s.

Thursday: Rain showers are expected with highs in the middle 50s.

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Swollen waterways prompt flood watch, warnings along Great Miami R, other spots

Published: Friday, February 23, 2018 @ 4:27 AM
Updated: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 9:55 PM

Swollen waterways prompt flood watch, warnings along rivers

As a Flood Watch remains in effect for the southern Miami Valley counties through Sunday morning, creeks, streams and fields will likely flood, said Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Kirstie Zontini.

“Creeks and streams, if not already, will likely be out of their banks through the weekend,” she said. “Fields will also be flooded with the heavy rains that arrive Friday and Saturday.”

>> Kasich declares emergency over Ohio flooding

A Flood Warning is in effect through 5 p.m. Monday along the Little Miami River in parts of Greene and Warren counties. Along the Great Miami River, a Flood Warning goes into affect at 11:18 p.m. and lasts through 7:32 p.m. Monday in Shelby County; and from 4:36 a.m. Sunday to 8:30 p.m Monday in Butler County near Middletown.

There’s a lag between the heavy rain and water levels rising, which is why creeks, streams and rivers won’t recede until the start to the new week, Zontini said.

>> Flooding: Know your risks

The Great Miami River is expected to crest, or hit its highest levels, this weekend. 

In Troy, the Great Miami River is expected to crest at 13.6 feet Sunday, and in Dayton, the river is expected to crest, also Sunday, at 32.3 feet. And in Middletown, the Great Miami River is expected to crest at 12.4 feet Sunday.

The Stillwater River in Englewood is expected to crest Monday at 33.6 feet.

>> WHIO Doppler 7 Interactive Radar

When the river does crest, here are the areas that will see flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

ENGLEWOOD (Stillwater River)

  • 23 feet: Martindale Road, Old Springfield Road and the road to the MetroPark are all closed
  • 25 feet: Martindale Road, old Springfield Road and the road to the MetroPark are covered by 2 to 3 feet of water

DAYTON (Great Miami River)

  • 27.5 feetBike trail will be flooded
  • 30 feet: Flooding occurs near Rip Rap Road between Bridgewater and Little York roads near Huber Heights

SIDNEY (Great Miami River)

  • 10 feet: The river approaches the bank on the west side of Custenborder Field. At stages above 10 feet, city officials begin flood operations.
  • 11 feet: Custenborder Field has some flooding of perimeter areas, along with flooding occurring in low spots on Miami River Road
  • 12 feet: The river reaches the bank on Riverside Drive, with flooding of Custenborder Field at the east river intake. Homes and properties will experience flooding along the river on Riverside Drive from the BK Root Beer stand to the city limits
MIDDLETOWN (Great Miami River)
  • 11 feetSome flooding occurs on private property areas along either side of Ohio 73 from the east side of the river approaching Excello. Middletown is protected by levees and floodgates to 24 feet.

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Rare yellow cardinal a ‘one in a million’ gem for birdwatchers in Alabama

Published: Saturday, February 24, 2018 @ 9:47 PM

A yellow cardinal.
Wikicommons
A yellow cardinal.(Wikicommons)

 

Birdwatchers and biologists have been on the lookout for a rare, yellow cardinal that’s been spotted around central Alabama in Shelby County in recent weeks, AL.com reported.

>> Read more trending news 

The bird has been getting a lot of attention recently after  resident Charlie Stephenson first noticed it at her backyard feeder and posted a picture on social media.

The cardinal’s bright yellow feathers are a result of a genetic mutation, according to scientists, who say it’s the same species as the familiar vivid red cardinal, but carries a mutation that changes its coloring.

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The rare cardinal is a different species from the endangered South American yellow cardinal species.

The bird in Shelby County is an adult male and Auburn University biology professor and bird expert Geoffrey Hill told AL.com the mutation is so rare that even he’s never seen one in person.

"I've been birdwatching in the range of cardinals for 40 years and I've never seen a yellow bird in the wild," Hill said. He estimated that there are just a few of these yellow cardinals in the U.S. and Canada in any given year.

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"There are probably a million bird feeding stations in that area, so very very roughly, yellow cardinals are a one in a million mutation,” Hill said.

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