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Rare bird drops by Schenectady County Airport

There were only 13,000 made, more than 5,000 were lost during World War II, and fewer than 15 are left throughout the world today.

A Boeing B-17 bomber touched down at the Empire State Aero Science Museum at the Schenectady County Airport Monday, Aug. 11.

Designed to carry 10 crew members, the plane carried four from Harrisburg, Pa., to Schenectady Monday, where it ended its short stay at the museum Thursday, Aug. 14, when it took off to Lawrence, Mass.

Positions on the plane during World War II included pilots, navigators, bombardiers and gunners. Now the plane tours with two pilots and two mechanics for two-week cycles throughout the year.

We usually see a B-17 in a museum and while it's preserved and pristine you can't see how it actually works, said Neil Morrison, of Port Townsend, Wash., who piloted the plane.

Morrison, who volunteers for the Experimental Aircraft Association of Oshkosh, Wis., said the EAA acquired the plane more than 30 years ago and tours with it nationally.

"It's a real plane, not a replica," said ESASM President Kevin Millington, who said the plane was used to fight German forces during World War II.

"It's an extremely heavily armed plane," Millington said of the World War II B-17s.

The B-17 was nicknamed the "Flying Fortress" by a journalist who saw the aircraft's rolling out ceremony in 1935 and witnessed its heavy artillery.

The "Flying Fortress" came equipped with the Norden Bombsight, a mini computer that guided bombs to their target. The first mini computer used in the B-17 is a far cry from the precision-guided missiles, in bomber planes today according to Millington.

According to Millington, two B-52s, which are the Air Force's equivalent today to the bomber, could do the work of 500 B-17s.

Millington said the planes flew in a formation with up to 500 other planes when they attacked Germany during the day.

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