You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Volunteers add key part to historic bomber

Urbana museum site of B-17 bomber restoration project.


Volunteers completed an important piece of their years-old puzzle to restore a historic bomber Friday, while at the same time honoring a family that helped make it possible.

A small group of volunteers and aviation enthusiasts stood in the hangar of the Champaign Aviation museum as a crane slowly lowered a vertical stabilizer onto the Champaign Lady, a B-17 bomber that is being rebuilt bit by bit in the museum. The large fin, located near the tail of the plane, was marked with an “S” within a black triangle, along with an L in black lettering.

The piece added Friday helps provide directional stability to the plane.

Volunteers initially chose that symbol because the “S” would honor Jerry Shiffer, an aviation enthusiast who founded the local plastics company Tech II. Jerry Shiffer died in a plane crash in 2005, but his wife, Leah, was on hand to watch the critical piece of the aircraft as it was fitted onto the tail section. Shiffer’s family purchased numerous scrap B-17 parts that are still being used to help rebuild the bomber.

The black “L” painted onto the stabilizer was meant to honor Leah, said Robert Buchwalter, a volunteer who worked on the project.

Initially, Leah said she believed the volunteers were teasing her when they explained the markings.

“Jerry would have loved this,” she said as she snapped photos of the stabilizer as volunteers fixed it onto the plane.

During World War II, it could sometimes take as much as 2 hours for the bombers to gather into formation during a mission, Buchwalter said. The markings on the stabilizer were used for identification.

“If you were looking for other airplanes from your group, that’s how you would recognize it,” Buchwalter said.

Volunteers later learned it was significant in another way. Although they did not know it at the time, the markings came from the 401st bomber group, which normally organized gatherings near an Air Force museum in Savannah, Ga. Members of that group learned that the Champaign County project would be using their symbol, and they now plan to visit the Champaign Aviation Museum for a luncheon in August.

Members of the 401st bomber group have been supportive of the project, said Jerry Good, another volunteer who’s worked on the Champaign Lady. In turn, he said the Urbana project will be able to honor that group’s history.

The vertical stabilizer was one of the first large pieces of the plane that was built by the volunteers six years ago, Buchwalter said. After all that time, it’s one more large piece of the puzzle complete.

For most of the volunteers, there isn’t much else they’d rather be doing than saving this one small part of history.

“We all suck at golf, so we may as well work on airplanes,” Buchwalter joked.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Wet morning commute, mild weather ahead this week
Wet morning commute, mild weather ahead this week

Rain will fall for first half of the day. Scattered showers at times through first half of day. Temperatures 10 to 20 degrees above normal all week. Rounds of rain towards end of week. TODAY: Breezy through the day. Highs in the upper 50s midday dropping to the upper 40s by the end of the afternoon. Scattered clouds linger into the night with...
Monica Crowley passes on Trump White House post amid plagiarism allegations
Monica Crowley passes on Trump White House post amid plagiarism allegations

Monica Crowley will not be joining the Trump administration as previously believed, The Washington Times reported Monday. “After much reflection, I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration,” Crowley said in a statement to the Times...
Steve Harvey reveals more details about Trump meeting, possibly working with Ben Carson
Steve Harvey reveals more details about Trump meeting, possibly working with Ben Carson

Comedian, author and broadcaster Steve Harvey discussed in greater detail his meeting last week with President-elect Donald Trump and says that moving forward he may work with Ben Carson, Trump’s nominee to be secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on inner-city issues. “I walked...
Eddie Long death: Memorial service set for controversial megachurch pastor
Eddie Long death: Memorial service set for controversial megachurch pastor

The metro Atlanta megachurch led by Bishop Eddie L. Long has set a date for a memorial service for the controversial pastor.  New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, will hold services for Long at 11 a.m. Jan. 25, Elder Craig Heath said during an early morning international prayer call. Long died Sunday at age...
WATCH: Good Samaritans save driver stuck on tracks seconds before train approaches
WATCH: Good Samaritans save driver stuck on tracks seconds before train approaches

Strangers saved a driver stuck on the tracks Friday in Portland, Oregon, seconds before a light rail train approached — and a KATU helicopter was there for the rescue. The vehicle, a rear-wheel drive Ford Mustang, was one of numerous cars to have trouble with the MAX light rail tracks near NE 99th Avenue and East Burnside...
More Stories