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Rare bird drops by Schenectady County Airport

The four-engine plane could reach a cruise speed of 180 mph and carry 5,000 pounds of bombs, which were strategically released by a bombardier.

The bombardier would sit with the navigator, who often used a sextant to navigate by the stars, and use Norden Bombsight to align the bomb before releasing the bomb over the target.

"The bomber was known for its ability to sustain heavy battle damage and bring its crew home." Millington said.

It was not uncommon for temperatures on the plane to dip below zero degrees, according to Morrison. He said the temperature in the plane ranged between 40 to 60 degrees below zero. In order to combat the cold, the crew wore electrically heated suits that they would plug in and control with a thermostat.

Crewmembers also wore microphones around over their vocal chords on their neck, so they could alert the other crewmembers of attacks to the plane.

One of the more difficult positions, according to Millington, was the tail gunner, who was responsible for protecting the back of the plane from enemy fire. Millington said that was the most frequently attacked position. Morrison was the only crewmember on board the B-17 who knew Morse code, but during the war, all the crewmembers knew Morse code and transmitted messages through the radios using it.

The plane, owned by EAA, was built at the end of World War II and was never used in combat, according to Morrison. While it was not used in battle, the plane was used in several different capacities, including the transport of cargo and aerial mapping.

It was purchased from a military surplus in 1946 for $750 before a group who wanted to preserve the plane and "return it to its former glory" bought it in 1978. However, the cost of renovations was too much, and the group eventually donated it to EAA in 1983.

It tours the country eight months out of the year and stops in 60 cities annually, Morrison said.

"It's rewarding and enjoyable volunteer work," he said. "It's priceless to talk to veterans."

For a tour schedule or for more information, visit b17.org.""

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