My first real attraction to airplanes was when I was in Grade School. A TV show called 12 O'clock High was my favorite show. It all centered around B-17 missions flew by the 8th Air Force. I am sure there was a story line to the show but all I cared about was that the B-17 was able to take off from England, bomb Germany, and return home again so I could watch again next week.
A number of years past. I then decided to learn r/c flight and a B-17 was in the near future. I built and flew a few r/c airplanes. After a couple of years into the hobby it was time to start on the 17.
In 1990 I looked around for plans as the only kits I could find were the Royal ( too small ) and the Westcraft ( too expensive ). I wrote to Nick Zirolli to see if he knew of any and he suggested Bob Holman in California. Yes indeed, Bob did have plans for a 10.5 ft span wood plane. The plans were drawn in Europe and were in metric but he said they were very usable if I wanted a challenge. And challenge it was! I spent the first winter redrawing all the 3ft x 8ft sheets of plans to American specs and making copies of all the patterns.
An order of stick wood from Balsa USA and a 4ft X 8ft sheet of 1/4inch house paneling got the project underway. After much head scratching about how to line everything up a fuselage was finally built up to a recognizable shape. Next the wings were framed up and the shock absorbing gear was designed and built up out of various sections of steel tubing, steel brake line, music wire, and springs. Now I had a chance to see how big this 17 was really going to be. It got to go outside for the first time for this picture. Having to turn it sideways to get out the garage door drove the spike home...Its BIG! It was then back to the basement for more building. It takes a whole Balsa tree to sheet one of these. After a lot of help from B-17 pilots, admirers, and aviation people in general, the project moved forward. 4 engines were needed. .45 cu. in. 2 stroke engines were mounted, servo hatches were made for the 11 servos. Bomb bay doors were hinged and a final subject was found to model after. This plane would have rolled off the Seattle floor in April 1943. All markings are non-existent however. Many people helped with the plane so the only fair thing was to use bogus markings. The tail number 110691 is the date I started building the plane. The "L" on the tail is for Linderman, and the S D E on the side is for my wife Susan, and sons David and Eric. The plane was named " Allegheny Oak", the name of the 4 x 8 sheet of paneling used to build it with. It was covered with .7 oz. fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin, then painted with genuine military paint... this was the outcome. Once you have one of these you have to be able to move it. I ran a want-ad in the local paper and found an old camper trailer which we stripped out, repainted, and made fixtures to mount the plane to. Now I was able to haul it to the field and fire it up to see what this machine would sound like. No prettier sound than when 4 engines go in and out of sync. : ) A few flights were made that summer before disaster struck. While turning downwind at normal flight altitude it suddenly rolled over and spun into the ground. There were more pieces to take home then I had brought that day. It was all captured on video tape. After watching it many times I could not figure out what had happened. It looked rebuildable, so on with the show. A new nose was framed up on the front of the fuselage. The wings were repaired as well as the fiberglass cowls and it was once again covered with .7 oz glass cloth and epoxy resin and made ready for paint.
Due to the tragic loss of one of my best friends, Rebecca D. Franz, the plane was renamed in her memory "The Miss Rebecca D." It will always carry 14 missions markings, one for each year that she lightened the lives of all around her.
The first outing for the "Miss Rebecca D." was my sisters shop in Holton Kansas for the city's Glory Day's weekend. The theme for the town was W.W.II. We managed to hang this 44 pound model from the ceiling of her business. The bomb bay doors were opened and 500 pound bombs were suspended from nylon thread. It drew a large crowd and made the front page of the local newspaper. The next weekend we took it to Hiawatha Kansas to a fly-in, but only for show as it had still not had test flights completed. Helping to assemble the plane, from L to R, are flying pals John, Gregg, my brother Larry ( on vacation from Washington State ), and myself. It even makes my Sig Kadet in the background look small. During setup for test flights the culprit was found that caused the first crash. While on the ground running things all went whacko on the controls. It was traced back to a bad electrical component, it nearly got me twice. That was corrected and the plane flew beautifully. It now had better than 20 flights on it when I got stupid and tried a cross wind takeoff at a fly-in. I had full right control in when it left ground but it rolled left and came down on the left wing and started cartwheeling. While I have no photos of the actual crash I did have hundreds of very quiet spectators. I still had most of a tail section so on with the rebuild! It took a couple of years to get the time to finish the job once again. Lots and lots of parts to build and repair after this landing. New engines were fitted going from the .45's to .61's and all the thrust lines had to be checked and adjusted via sanding the rear of the mounts slightly. Using these long mahogany wood strips bolted to the engines works much better than any gauge I tried. That pretty well brings us up to the present time. My wife got me a ride on the EAA's B-17 "Aluminum Overcast" which was, and is, a thrill of a lifetime for me. Pictured here is the Current "Miss Rebecca D." and myself. I am sporting my flight jacket from the EAA flight. Hope you enjoyed the tour with my B-17. It is hard to put 10 years of love, work, disaster, and joy on a single web page.
(Be sure to click on the highlited text for a pictorial story)