BOEING BILLED THE July event as a “celebration” of Plant 2, where it built the B-17 Flying Fortress bombers and the first of the B-29 Super Fortresses that, by many accounts, won World War II. One Rosie the Riveter who built B-17s and two pilots who flew them recalled the glory days, when a fake neighborhood covered the plant for camouflage. Hundreds of veterans and fans ogled an exquisitely restored B-17 and almost-restored B-29 in the hangar behind the speechmakers, and grumbled at not being allowed closer.
No one mentioned what everyone knew—that this was goodbye. Boeing will soon demolish Plant 2 and partially restore its polluted site to wildland. In mid-September the two bombers will join the Concorde and Air Force One at the Museum of Flight’s outdoor air park.
“That’s going to do great harm,” says Terrence McCosh, one of the 30-odd volunteers who’ve spent more than one million hours restoring the war birds. “They’re not weathertight. They’ll corrode rapidly.”
Dan Hagedorn, the museum’s senior curator, hopes to eventually build an enormous gallery, costing $100 million and covering up to 10 football fields, for all these planes and more. Meanwhile he promises super-care for the super-relics—and that the public will finally get to see them up-close.