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Posted: 5/6/2004 5:04:45 AM EST

News Article

B-17 "Aluminum Overcast" Damaged in Gear Malfunction at Van Nuys

May 5, 2004 - The Experimental Aircraft Association's Boeing B-17 bomber "Aluminum Overcast," a World War II-era aircraft currently touring the West Coast, was damaged Wednesday when its landing gear collapsed following its safe arrival at the Van Nuys, Calif., airport.

The airplane had safely landed at Van Nuys at about 4:30 (Pacific time) and was completing its 4,000-foot landing roll when both main gear mechanisms collapsed. The airplane was estimated to be traveling approximately 30 miles per hour at the time and was about to turn off the runway. There were no injuries among the crew or passengers, and all persons aboard safely exited the airplane.

Late Wednesday evening, crews had raised and towed the aircraft from the Van Nuys runway. The extent of the damage is being assessed.

EAA's B-17 has been flying national tours since 1994, with thousands of people enjoying flights aboard the vintage aircraft and tens of thousands more touring the interior of the aircraft.

EAA has owned the airplane since 1981 and spent more than a decade restoring it to full flying condition.

The current B-17 tour began in April was traveling the West Coast and was due to return to EAA Headquarters in Oshkosh, Wis., in mid-July.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:18:55 AM EST
Ouch! That's painful to watch. Such a beautiful and rare airplane. I hope they get it flying again soon.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:21:42 AM EST
There was just a thread about this craft / tour, a couple weeks ago. Was looking forward to its arrival here (Los Angeles.
Heard the blurb on TV this morning, looked it up and the story says the National Tour is being cancelled / cut short.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:24:35 AM EST
please excuse me while I go cry.

I know they will have her back in the air, after they reubild the engines, x-ray the frame, get new props, gear, etc etc.

Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:24:57 AM EST
dammit! the b-17 is one of my favorite warplanes of all time. so many .50s...beautiful, just a beautiful airplane.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:26:11 AM EST
Yeah, that's sad.
Awesome to see that thing in the air, and I hope it is again soon.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:30:18 AM EST
That's not so bad! They will be able to have that rascal back in the air in a few months at most.

Wiggy762, did you fly in it when it was in your neck of the woods? If you didn't, I bet you wish you did.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:50:23 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/6/2004 5:51:59 AM EST by wiggy762]

Not 2 weeks ago I was IN that beautiful bird! We took a great flight over my house. I spent a bunch of time at the left waist gunner position and more time in the bombardier position!

I am very sad.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 5:52:57 AM EST
Well thank God it was only a collpase of the gear. Could have been a lot worse. I'm sure it will be fixed up in no time.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:31:29 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/6/2004 6:32:30 AM EST by LWilde]
Hmmm...<<Former pilot and forensic analyst hat on>>

This is VERY strange indeed. The design of the B-17 landing gear is ancient but very robust...like the entire damn plane. The main gear consists of a single main strut with a single wheel. The main strut is angled forward at about 30degs and very slightly outboard. The main strut is supported in front by a secondary folding strut that locks in place when the main gear is fully extended. The secondary strut folds up into the wheel well during gear retraction. The main strut then folds up and forward during retraction. When extended, the gear lock. The gear are moved hydraulically and controlled by the pilots.

All pretty simple huh? Ok...why is Prof. Pedantic blathering on about this?

I believe that this mishap may be dur to human error. Please note in the video that both gear fail at essentially the same moment. In actually, the gear never went up or down at exactly the same time. In this video, both fail within a few milliseconds of each other, indicating a SYSTEMIC problem with the landing gear.

B-17 landing gear are VERY robust. Many times a B-17 landed with only one gear down and the damage was minimal. The good gear stayed down and the plane rolled for a while then ground-looped. In this case both failed at the same time.


I don't think the gear was fully down and locked on landing...OR the hydraulic system failed and the gear never locked down..OR possibly, someone retracted the gear AFTER landing.

It is possible that for whatever reason, the hydrulic system failed before landing and bled off during rollout. That means that either the mechs made a mistake or the pilots or another in the A/C made one.

Lots of work for the tin-benders, engine mechs and other guys coming up. Too bad too...pretty plane.

My guess: Pilot error...sad to say it usually is.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:34:18 AM EST

Originally Posted By DOW:
Well thank God it was only a collpase of the gear. Could have been a lot worse. I'm sure it will be fixed up in no time.

Let's hope.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:37:30 AM EST
DAMMIT! This was the plane the you could take 1/2 hour tours on for around $325! I was waiting for it to come back to NorCal so I could take my dad!

Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:41:37 AM EST
The belly gunner turret is literally pushed into the aircraft....OUCH. It makes me wanna cry!
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:48:26 AM EST
Since the wheels don't fully retract anyway (The designers didn't fully trust newfangled retractables) but instead hit up against posts, I'll bet the damage isn't all that severe. The B-17 can even roll on retracted gear, much to the detriment of DF footballs, ball turrets, bomb bay doors, but the fuselage and wings will survive a belly landing, unlike the shoulder-winged B-24, which would come apart like a squashed bug.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:48:37 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:52:47 AM EST
Wow, that was sad to see!
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:53:03 AM EST
It's a shame so few realize the importance & symbolism of these beautiful warbirds. To see & hear them can open your imagination to what it might have been like during WWII. Meeting some of the WWII pilots & crewmen at these events are even more interesting than the planes themselves.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 7:49:35 AM EST

Originally Posted By Stoney-Point:
The belly gunner turret is literally pushed into the aircraft....OUCH. It makes me wanna cry!

Yup...it is smooshed all right! You can bet the turret system up in the plane is all destroyed too. That is why there is a step in the pre-landing checklist to verify that the ball turret is unmanned.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 7:54:55 AM EST
Weird. And not as bad as I fear, reading the thread title.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:08:27 AM EST
Thank goodness it was on final rollout and not while it was launching. You love to see these old birds in the air but one has to wonder how much longer some of them can be maintained in flying shape. Hope she is back in the air soon.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:14:52 AM EST
[Last Edit: 5/6/2004 10:18:29 AM EST by a320az]

Originally Posted By 95thFoot:
I'll bet the damage isn't all that severe.

Cept for those 4 big ass rotary engines that are gonna need a complete tear down and inspection. Also I would be willing to bet the props are at least 10K a piece.

Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:31:47 AM EST
Oh my, that sucks!
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:43:03 AM EST
Looking at the video I wondered if the landing gear had been fully deployed. It appeared that the plane was lower to the ground than it normally is when landing. It's possible too that it could have been the angle to the ground that the video was shot from that made it appear low.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:45:00 AM EST
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 10:50:18 AM EST

Originally Posted By a320az:

Originally Posted By 95thFoot:
I'll bet the damage isn't all that severe.

Cept for those 4 big ass rotary engines that are gonna need a complete tear down and inspection. Also I would be willing to bet the props are at least 10K a piece.


Anytime, ANYTIME u have a propstrike, u gotta rebuild the engine. Since these guys make their living flying the old bird, I'm sure they have the facalities to deal with this. The belly ball will be the worst of the damage. It all depends on how badly damaged the electric turret system actually is.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 1:57:08 PM EST
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 3:54:54 PM EST
I was literally squirming as I saw the landing gear collapse and the plane fall. Ugh what a tragedy. Hope they restore that bird quickly.
Link Posted: 5/6/2004 4:24:46 PM EST
I noticed the tail wheel oscillating a lot, don't know if that matters too much though. I didn't check this link but watched local TV footage. My first thought was they weren't locked down, all the way down to get the indicator as down but not locked, can a hydraulic failure unlock them with weight on them? They definitely went at the same time. No indication of anything like beginning to ground loop or swerve.

Link Posted: 5/6/2004 6:53:09 PM EST
Well Shit !!!!!!

Link Posted: 5/6/2004 7:07:14 PM EST

This is the group that I went up in. They have a B-17 and B-24 and they will be in Santa Maria then San Luis Obispo. The tour is called the Wings of Freedom and is run by the Collings Foundation. The name of the B-17 was different so I don't think they are the same tour. Tour schedule at link above.
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