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Published June 14 2011

Crash won’t affect bomber’s July visit to Fargo airport

FARGO – The upcoming visit of a World War II-era bomber to Hector International Airport will go on as planned, officials said Monday, hours after a similar plane crashed in suburban Chicago.

The “Flying Fortress” B-17 bomber that crashed outside Aurora, Ill., is not affiliated with the Experimental Aircraft Association, the organization bringing a different B-17 to Fargo next month.

EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski said Monday’s crash will have no impact on the group’s “Salute to Veterans” national tour this summer and visitors don’t need to worry about the aircraft’s safety.

During the tour’s stop in Fargo July 19-20, area residents will still have an opportunity to ride in a B-17 plane nicknamed “Aluminum Overcast.” That same plane was last in Fargo in July 2009.

The Federal Aviation Administration holds living-history flights, like EAA’s, to strict maintenance and training guidelines, similar to those required of a small airline, Knapinski said.

Crews inspect the “Aluminum Overcast” after every 25 hours of operation, and the airplane undergoes a major inspection after every 100 hours of operation, he said.

Plus, the FAA personally inspects EAA’s maintenance work, records and crew training, he added.

“With airplanes such as this, they are rare historical artifacts, so they get a lot of TLC,” Knapinski said. “People can be assured that these are very safe and very well-maintained.”

Of the 12,732 Boeing B-17s produced between 1935 and May 1945, fewer than 100 airframes still exist and fewer than 15 are flyable.

Before Monday’s crash, only three of those B-17s were available to the public through national tours, Knapinski said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541