B-17 Alliance Foundation
The members of the B-17 Alliance Foundation, a small aviation museum located on the west side of the Salem Municipal Airport in Oregon, have a single yet ambitious goal to restore the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Lacey Lady” (s/n 44-85790) to a flying condition. The task is not an easy one, as the aircraft served for about six decades as a gas station canopy in Milwaukie, Oregon.
How it all started
The plane’s history began right after the end of World War II, when Art Lacey went to the Altus Air Base in Oklahoma with a budget of $15,000 that he borrowed from a friend to purchase a surplus B-17 from the War Assets Administration. He didn’t have much experience flying a four-engine planes, so he simply skimmed through the manual right before taking it for a test flight. As a result, he crash-landed, damaging the plane beyond repair. Since there was an abundance of B-17s awaiting their fate after the war, he was still able to make a deal and flew another plane to Oregon.
Gas station canopy
Art Lacey mounted his newly acquired B-17 as the canopy of his gas station making it an instant business success. Initially the public could tour the plane and it is estimated that over a million people went inside. The gas station was closed in 1991 but the adjacent restaurant continued to operate while still selling some B-17 souvenirs. Art Lacey died in 2000, and a few years later the family created a non-profit B-17 Alliance Foundation to restore the “Lacey Lady” to a flying condition and to honor the American Spirit of the Greatest Generation.
The aircraft was taken apart and trucked to its new home inside the Hangar “C” of the McNary Field (Salem Municipal Airport) in Salem, Oregon. The public is welcome to visit and witness firsthand how the museum’s volunteers are restoring the iconic aircraft one piece at a time. During our visit, Paul Payne, a former B-24 bombardier and a docent at the museum, was our tour guide. He informed us about the current state of the restoration and shared other personal stories.
More than 100 volunteers are working on the “Lacey Lady” and are hoping to get her airborne in about 10 years. The total cost of the restoration is estimated at $9 million dollars and the Foundation is always looking for donations and sponsorships. To properly restore the aircraft, all existing parts need to be disassembled, cleaned, and inspected. Replacement parts will have to be manufactured for those missing or irreplaceable. There is also a plan to build a permanent museum together with service and storage hangars.