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Posted: 8/30/2004 4:50:08 AM EST


A piece of history was raised from the depths of a lake in the Canadian wilderness early last week.

And Columbus has a strong tie to the World War II artifact.

Jack Bullington of Columbus was the co-pilot of the U.S. Army Air Corps aircraft that made an emergency landing nearly 60 years ago on a frozen Dyke Lake in Labrador. It was on Dec. 24, 1947, when navigational problems during a routine delivery flight created a fuel shortage.

There was nothing to do but land.

The crew and passengers were rescued two days later and the B-17 was abandoned where it sat on Dyke Lake. When spring arrived, the plane sunk to the bottom of the waterway.

On Monday, after years of cutting through governmental red tape, the aircraft was pulled out of the water.

"I think it's just one of the good old planes that had to do with us winning the war. I think it should be preserved," Bullington said.

Robert Mester is director of Underwater Admiralty Services Inc., based in Washington, that located and brought the aircraft out the water. The plane was found relatively close to the shoreline. It will remain on the lifting system used to raise it and over the next several days be pulled about 60 miles by local fishing boats to where there are usable roads to transport the aircraft the rest of the way.


The nearest town to the rescue site is Labrador City, which is more than 200 miles away.

Surrounded by the clear, cold water, the aircraft had been protected from ultraviolet rays and pollution.

The 55-degree water was described by Mester as pristine. He and his crew have been using it for drinking water for more than two weeks with no problems.

To raise the plane, professional salvage "bags" were arranged in a sort of cradle under the plane. The eight bags - which are similar to balloons - were filled with air and subsequently were capable of lifting 8,000 pounds of weight each. The salvaged plane weighs about 32,000 pounds.

Once the plane was out of the 23-feet-deep water, decades of marine growth was power-washed off its body to prevent etching.

Part of the tail section - the empennage - is missing, according to Mester, who said it is probably the easiest part to replace on a B-17. However, when time allows, his crew is still looking for it under the water with sonar equipment.

"It's gone downstream somewhere. Where, we don't know," he said.

The rest of the plane is in good condition.

"The plane will fly again," Mester said.

Recovery and restoration efforts are being funded by Don Brooks of Georgia. It could take three years to complete the restoration, but when it is ready for flight, plans call for a journey over Labrador, according to Mester.

B-17s were used by many countries during WWII, but there are fewer than 10 flying today, Mester said.

"So to bring one back to life has fulfillment," he said. "There's also the fulfillment of testing yourself against the elements."

He said the rescue's environment was harsh, including mosquitoes, logistics and politics.

It took about six years to get the approval of the Canadian government to remove the B-17 from the country.

Bullington was contacted a few years ago by people involved with the project. Earlier this month Mester called the Columbus man about the impending recovery.

Recalling the events of the original incident that put the plane in the lake, Bullington said the plane's personnel lost their way during a routine flight from Greenland to Goose Bay, in northwestern Ontario.

After the emergency landing, the seven crew members and two passengers spent two nights in the wilderness waiting for rescuers in temperatures that dropped to 20 degrees below zero.

When Bullington was returned to his base in Greenland, he wrote in his journal about sighting a search-and-rescue plane over the lake after the first night in the wilderness.

"Everyone came down onto the lake and as he came diving down over our position, it was truly one of the best Christmas presents any of us had received," Bullington wrote. "After making several passes over the lake, they then proceeded to drop us extra emergency supplies, including clothing, food and sleeping bags. Our good spirits were by now back up to normal."

In 1998, when the abandoned aircraft was located about six miles from where searchers expected it to be in the lake, the B-17 was described as a time capsule. The windshield was still in place and no rust could be seen.

The corresponding discovery of the campsite used by the plane's crew and passengers was unexpected. Cooking utensils, a canteen, an ax, a can of food and a wood pile were as they had been left more than 50 years before. Parachute shrouds that had been used to tie makeshift shelters onto trees were still tied in place. Except for a growth of moss and some rust, the camp was intact.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 4:55:31 AM EST
Unbelieveable. I wish I could have been there and been a part of this.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 4:55:32 AM EST
Well that's just amazing. Wondeful bird.

I wonder how much stuff, both German and American are sitting in the forests of Russia?
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 5:10:22 AM EST
[Last Edit: 8/30/2004 5:11:48 AM EST by Tanker06]

Originally Posted By Heavyarmor:
B-17s were used by many countries during WWII....


BZZZZZZZTTT!! Back to journalism school for you, Bunkie!
Only the US and the Brits used them.
(I guess that counts as 'many' in his book....)

Not counting the ones flown by the Germans (captured) or confiscated after landing in neutral
countries (Switzerland, Sweden). Plus a few that the Soviets got hold of after our guys landed in
their territory due to damage, the planes confiscated and the crews imprisoned until they were
finally released. The Israelis did get some surplus ones after the war that they used also, but I'm
not sure of how many.

That would be SCHWEET to see though.... Hopefully it will fly again one day!
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 5:16:33 AM EST
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 5:21:14 AM EST
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 8:06:50 AM EST
Don Brooks was heavily involved in the recovery and restoration of the P-38 Glacier Girl, so I have no doubt this B-17 will fly again.

I got to see a missing man formation flown in memory of all our trrops lost since Sept 11 that had a B-17, P-51, P-38, and a Spitfire............ amazing sight.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 8:15:53 AM EST
the b-17, one of my favorite planes.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 8:18:42 AM EST
www.nwrain.net/~newtsuit/uasi/companyprofile/companyprofile.htm

thres some good stuff in the current projects section. inlcuding some details about .50 cal guns from the p38 wreckage.

...wonder if they would be transferrable.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 9:24:25 AM EST
I love this stuff. These old warbirds are works of art as well as historical artifacts and every one possible should be restored.

BTW, I heard that there's a Lake near Templehof Airport in Berlin that has dozens of rare warbirds (ME109s, FW190s, Dorniers, Heinkels) waiting to be raised again.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 9:34:49 AM EST
This is great news to a war plane junkie like myself....


I would have loved to have been there to see the intact campsite.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 10:12:49 AM EST
Nope.
When they recovered the Glaicer Girl they pulled out the .50 cal machine guns and went to town with them.
When they asked to bring them back into the USA the BATF said NO.
They had to demil them. They destroyed them.
A fucking shame that they could not have been brought back for a museum display.




Originally Posted By torstin:
thres some good stuff in the current projects section. inlcuding some details about .50 cal guns from the p38 wreckage.
...wonder if they would be transferrable.

Link Posted: 8/30/2004 12:06:22 PM EST

Nope.
When they recovered the Glaicer Girl they pulled out the .50 cal machine guns and went to town with them.
When they asked to bring them back into the USA the BATF said NO.
They had to demil them. They destroyed them.
A fucking shame that they could not have been brought back for a museum display.



That was a horrible decision that BATF made having them destroy something with such historical value like the .50s from Glaicer Girl.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 12:21:04 PM EST
It says they pulled it up back in '98. Does this mean they've got it flying again by now?
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 12:30:37 PM EST
awesome. we need more B17's and other WW2 planes flying!!! maybe it'll be at oshkosh in a few years?
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 12:32:58 PM EST

It says they pulled it up back in '98. Does this mean they've got it flying again by now?


The B-17 was filmed and studied underwater in 1998, but was only raised last week.
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 12:36:09 PM EST

Originally Posted By Paul:

"The plane will fly again," Mester said.


Cool. I love seeing history kept alive. I work at March ARB and plenty of the old birds still flying stop by to fuel up before heading out. Too cool.



Just keep Darryl Greenameyer away from it....
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 1:00:50 PM EST

Originally Posted By 95thFoot:

Just keep Darryl Greenameyer away from it....



what does that mean???
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 1:14:29 PM EST
Couple books out there about what that means...

Basically he tried to recover a B-29 from a lake in Greenland (I can't remember 100%, either Greenland or Iceland) and in the process ended up starting it on fire and burning it to the ground after it had survived almost 50 years in/on the ice up there... It is a shame because it was in relatively good condition and would have been one of only a handful of B-29s flying...

Spooky
Link Posted: 8/30/2004 2:01:59 PM EST

Basically he tried to recover a B-29 from a lake in Greenland (I can't remember 100%, either Greenland or Iceland) and in the process ended up starting it on fire and burning it to the ground after it had survived almost 50 years in/on the ice up there... It is a shame because it was in relatively good condition and would have been one of only a handful of B-29s flying...



The B-29 named Kee Bird is the plane in question which was in being recovered from Greenland. It was destroyed when an APU engine caught fire. Essentially the fuel pump on the APU wasn't working so they jury-rigged the fuel tank by hanging it above the engine and gravity fed the fuel. The APU was shook loose from its mounts when they were taxing over the rough ice covered lake causing the fuel tank to spread gas and the resulting fire. It was as you point out a true disaster given the rarity of recovering a B-29 Super Fortress in such an intact condition.
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