Piccadilly Lilly II
Piccadilly Lilly II (s/n 44-83684) was the last active B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in the United States Air Force, and retired in 1959 after nine years as a DB-17P drone director. She is currently part of Edward T. Maloney's aviation collection and is being restored to flying condition at the Planes of Fame air museum, Chino, California.
This aircraft was possibly the last aircraft assigned to the 8th AF / 447th Bomb Group but perhaps not delivered (Freeman).
This aircraft was used in the Dick Powell Theatre episode "Squadron," and The Quinn Martin production of Twelve O'Clock High starring Robert Lansing and Paul Burke. She was redressed to represent the numerous aircraft which comprised the mythical 918th Bomb Group. She also appeared in The Thousand Plane Raid as well as Black Sheep Squadron.
In August 1959, only days after flying her last mission for the U.S. Air Force, Piccadilly Lilly II was officially retired from active service as the last of 12,731 B-17s to serve with the USAAF / U.S. Air Force.
Piccadilly Lilly II was built in May 1945 in Long Beach, California by Douglas Aircraft under license from Boeing. She was accepted into service on May 7, 1945, and placed into storage on May 11, 1945, since the War in Europe had ended on May 8, 1945. She remained in storage through June 21, 1950, when her designation was changed from B-17G to DB-17G. She then went on to serve from 1950 through 1956 with the 3200th and 3205th Drone Group and Proof Test Wing at Elgin AFB, Holloman AFB and Eniwetok Atoll. Her mission was as a drone controller and was used to monitor the Greenhouse Series of nuclear testing at Eniwetok Atoll in the 1950s.
Piccadilly Lilly II's designation was changed again in November 1956 from DB-17G to DB-17P and was used as a drone controller at Holloman AFB with the 3225th Drone Squadron from 1956 through 1959. Her last mission was on August 6, 1959, when she controlled a QB-17G 44-83717 drone as a target for a Falcon air-to-air missile fired by an F-101B Voodoo jet fighter. A few days later she was officially retired in a ceremony at Holloman AFB; the last B-17 to serve in the U.S. Air Force.
Piccadilly Lilly II became a part of the Planes of Fame collection on September 24, 1959, which was then located in Claremont, CA. Planes of Fame founder Edward Maloney wasted no time and put her to work right away appearing on TV’s “Dick Powell Theater" in a program about the famed 100th (The Bloody Hundredth) Bomb Group. She later became known as Piccadilly Lilly II when she was used in the popular 1960’s TV series Twelve O’clock High. She was flown by Planes of Fame from 1959 through 1971. During those years she starred in many Hollywood productions including the 1969 movie The Thousand Plane Raid. In 1971 she was grounded and has been on display since then at Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino CA.
In late 2008, the Museum assembled a volunteer restoration team to accelerate the process of bringing B-17G, #44-83684, “Piccadilly Lilly II” back to flight condition. In 2009, significant progress was made with respect to the short-term goals of 1) enhancing the visitor experience and 2) systematically repairing and mitigating on-going degradation of structural components. Efforts have focused on the restoration of various crew stations so that visitors can more easily put themselves in the shoes of a young crew member at 25,000 feet on a bombing run over enemy territory in late World War II.
The ball turret has been restored and a machine gun (with new ammo box) mounted in one of the waist gunner positions. New gun barrels were fabricated and added to the tail and chin positions and a fully refurbished, modified top turret has been installed. Both the ball turret and top turret can be manually operated. New signage (part of an Eagle Scout project) directs visitor attention to, and provides information about, various features of the aircraft. Crew station equipment, particularly in the radio compartment and tail gunner positions are being restored, replaced with new surplus items, or if necessary, fabricated in preparation for reinstallation when structural repairs are completed in those positions. The tail cone has been removed and structural repairs in it are nearing completion after the tedious task of stripping all old paint was completed. The same is true of the radio compartment where structural repairs are underway following the laborious task of stripping paint. All equipment from the nose has been removed from the aircraft. Stripping paint from the nose and performing much needed repairs there will follow completion of the tail gunner and radio operator positions. Wooden components have been rebuilt or refabricated, including the floor in the waist, an electrical junction box in the bomb bay, two ammo boxes (the first two of several), the tail gunner seat, the radio operator’s desk (using mostly original wooden components), and the navigator’s desk with the restoration and re-fabrication of interior wooden doors is still in progress. All props have been stripped and prepared for painting plus the tail wheel assembly and main landing gear have been cleaned and repainted. Restoration of peripheral equipment such as bombs and bomb carts is also nearing completion.
In addition to the structural repairs in the radio compartment and tail gunner position, numerous repairs have been made to the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and related fairings. The vertical stabilizer is ready for remounting. Radio mounting brackets and landing light housings have been refabricated from scratch.
When completed, the plane will be only 1 of 10 Flying Fortresses in the world in flying condition. In 2010, the total cost of restoration was estimated to be about one million dollars.
Media related to Piccadilly Lily II at Wikimedia Commons