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B-17G N5017N, EAA "Aluminum Overcast"
Aero Service Corp, Stoltzfus, Dothan Aviation
Lockheed/Vega built B-17G-105-VE, USAAF 44-85740, N5017N
Last updated April 9, 2015

Take me back to the B -17 Main Page

N5017N Pre EAA History
  B-17G N5017N picture

This is the oldest photo I have of N5017N. It shows NL5017N and from looks of the cars I would guess it is late 1940's. It might have had the cargo door on the pilot's side at that time, similar to the C-108 cargo version of the B-17. (See Robin Mitchell history, below)

  Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates B-17
Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates, of Coatesville, PA, was a partnership comprised of my father, the late Chris D. Stoltzfus,; my twin Karl (K&K Aircraft, Dynamic Aviation), and myself. We bought '5017N from Aero Service Corp. of Philadelphia, PA in 1962 for $10,000 and sold it to Dothan Aviation in 1966 for $25,000.
This 1964 shot (above) by friend Ron Stoltzfus is the best one I have of it. Note the 1956 Ford F-500 beside it. Also, we had bought about 400 government surplus Wright R-2600-29A and -35 (B-25) engines in overhauled condition (around $400 each), and some of them are in the background. That's our Chase YC-122C, N122S to the left.
Aero Service Corporation, based at North Philadelphia Airport, Philadelphia, PA operated N5017N from 19__ until 1962. Here's a 1961 photo of it in Beruit, Lebanon (Will Blunt Col.) and here is an interesting 10/62 report by Aero Service on their use and sale of N5017N. (WORD document) More of it's history with Aero Service is in Robin Williams' report, below.
This is the 7/30/62 bill of sale to Chris D. Stoltzfus & Associates; the 7/27/62 receipt; and another of 8/2/62 with more details. (All pdf's)
When we bought the B-17, Father went down to North Philadelphia Airport to take delivery. He had very few hours of multi-engine time (rated in a Twin Navion; a couple of hours in a Twin Beech; and a few in our Chase YC-122's - - certainly less than 50-hours total). He said he could fly any airplane if he understood its systems, so he read up on the B-17 manual and headed to North Philly with Bill Hunt, one of our pilots, and Uncle John (John P. "JP" Stoltzfus). Father flew it with Bill in the right seat and Uncle John is the jump seat.
They went up to Lancaster and shot a couple of landings, and left it there. Bill and Uncle John went up a time or two and flew it a bit, and then one day they brought it back to Chester County. The flaps malfunctioned on landing and Uncle John went back and cranked them down. It sat there for a while, I suppose because our 2800' strip felt a bit short to Father. Finally, after pressure from the airport Authority (I'm told by Al Sheves), he flew it over to Stoltzfus Private Airport and got it in "no problem." Interestingly, Father never flew any of the seven DC-3's we owned.
This 1962 photo was taken through the windshield of his car by Dewey Marsh, a flight instructor at Chester County Airport, Coatesville, PA. Dewey, a good friend, later died of lung cancer.
One day in 1966 a kid by the name of Gary Wilson, from Lebanon, PA stopped by and asked me to take a photo of him with the B-17. I did, and several years ago he sent me the slide! In the background is DC-3 N2400, one of two ex-North Central Airlines DC-3's that we bought government surplus from the U.S. Navy in 1965. They had been leased by the Navy to North Central, converted to Wright 1820's, and then returned when N.C. was done with them. It is presently N400MF for MFI in Ft. Pierce, FL, but probably not for long as they are going to an all-turbine DC-3 fleet.
We had bought '17N to use on fire ant contracts and/or as a sprayer, but hadn't gotten it converted by the time we bought the DC-3's in 1965. We offered it for sale, and from this telegram (pdf) it looks like Arnold Kolb, of Black Hills Aviation in Spearfish, SD, was "first up." I don't know what happened to the transaction but on 10/12 we refunded their deposit in full. (Mother made detailed notes about EVERYthing!)
Next up was Hugh Wheeless, of Dothan Aviation in Dothan, AL. They came up and inspected it, and on 11/26 they sent us a deposit (pdf) toward the $25,000 purchase price, with spares. One of their "squawks" on the airplane when they did the pre-purchase inspection was some corrosion around one of the aileron hinges. My brother Karl made the repair and it still showed in this 2006 photo.
Virgil Fenn came up and flew it out of our (very soggy at the time) strip and landed at Chester County. Father and Uncle John went over to watch the landing, and when Virgil made a go-around they saw fire on #2 engine (I think). They suspected a turbocharger fire and had a fire extinguisher in hand when Virgil landed.
Dothan Aviation operated N5017N and N4710C (destroyed by fire in 8/76 after a forced landing for an engine fire) for dispersing bait for fire ants in the southeastern states. My photo collection shows two generations of dispersing equipment. The early ones (taken by Father) show a venturi-action spreader attached underneath. The first photo is N5017N (glass nose, yellow cowl flaps) and the others N4710C (yellow nose, blue cowl flaps). Note how close to the ground the tips of the spreaders are! Wing-low on a crosswind landing would be a trick!
  Dothan Aviation B-17 N5017N  picture Dothan Aviation B-17 N4710C picture Dothan Aviation B-17 N4710C picture
  Next are three 1974 photos of N5017N. (J. Cupido slides in my collection) Note that at this time it had tubes out the wing tips to spread the bait.
  Dothan Aviation B-17 N5017N Dothan Aviation B-17 N5017N Dothan Aviation B-17 N5017N
Now, in 1987 and 1988 a Mr. Robin A. Wiliams of Marshfield, MA, wrote to my mother saying that he was researching and writing on N5017N and asking for confirmation of details on our ownership of the B-17. I have his letters and a copy of his report dated August 1987, and am chagrined to admit that Mother sent them to me and asked me to respond to Williams, which I failed to do. For that reason, some of his details on page 4 of his report are not consistent with my info (above).
I called Robin on 8/7/13 and he is still at the same address and with the same phone number (except for area code) as in 1988! We had a nice chat and I am posting his report here (pdf) with his permission and with the understanding that some of his details about our ownership varies from mine only because I never responded to him back in 1988. He did a lot of research and I wish I had helped him with that small but important part of its history.
William E. Harrison, of Tulsa, OK bought N5017N from Dothan in 1978 with the intention of flying it around the world. That didn't materialize and in 1981 it was donated to EAA. In the next section I'll cover some of its history with them, but here's a rather poor shot of it at Oshkosh '80 while Harrison still owned it. (a slide).

N5017N History with EAA

"Aluminum Overcast"

B-17 Aluminum Overcast photo  
According to Williams the aircraft was donated to EAA on March 31, 1981 with the proviso that they continue the restoration program and maintain the aircraft in airworthy condition. They have surely kept their promise!
  B-17 Aluminum Overcast photo
This 1982 slide from my collection shows it's authentic USAAF serial number of 44-85740. Note that it does not yet have the turrets. And here's a rather poor image of the earlier "Aluminum Overcast" artwork. I wonder what the little boy was thinking as he peered up at her?
EAA has since painted it in colors of 398th Bomb Group B-17G 42-102516, "Aluminum Overcast," which was shot down over France on Aug 13, 1944.
I have a copy of the 1995 photo of "Aluminum Overcast" in front of the Twin Towers. It's hard to believe that they are no longer there! Hopefully the memory of Sept. 11, 2001 reminds us that we really do live in a broken world and that the only thing that is sure is God's love for us and the eternal life He offers us through Jesus Christ.
On May 5, 2004, "Aluminum Overcast" suffered a low-speed main landing gear collapse at Van Nuys, CA. I have read that the ball turret was shoved up into the airplane and the chin turret was heavily damaged. Certainly it needed at least some props and major repairs in several areas.
I was at Oshkosh 2005 and took these photos of her under repair. Only the #1 engine was installed, and note that both the chin turret and ball turret were removed. Here we see the #1 engine and #2 firewall
Firewalls for #3 and #4 engines
The turbocharger for #2 engine behind the left main gear
The landing gear screwjack in the left wheel well.
The right main landing gear and wheel, and the inside brake.
The B-17 has expander tube brakes on both sides of the wheel
EAA B-17 picture

N5017N was up at Akron Municipal Airport here in Ohio in 2006, so I ran up and got some shots. What a spectacular day it was!

Here are three shots of it getting the wheels in the wells and climbing out, and then four of approach, landing, and parking in from of the old Akron Muni terminal building. What a "period" backdrop for such an airplane!
EAA B-17 picture
EAA B-17 picture
EAA B-17 picture
  EAA B-17 picture EAA B-17 picture EAA B-17 picture EAA B-17 picture

Here's another series now starting at the front and going counterclockwise.

EAA B-17 photo
EAA B-17 photo
EAA B-17 photo
EAA B-17 N5017N photo
EAA B-17 N5017N photo
EAA B-17 N5017N photo
  And finally, we'll continue our walk around the quick way. Go across from left to right as you move down.  

I have on more than one ocassion, including when I took these photos at Akron Muni, attempted to engage some of the B-17 crew on the basis of past ownership of N5017N, and my aviation photography, but was essentially dismissed. EAA #13348 didn't help either. My hope was to get inside so I could get some cockpit photos, but so far no luck. Maybe some day!

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