For more than 20 years, aviation and military history buffs have made the pilgrimage to Meacham Airport’s Vintage Flying Museum to see Chuckie, one of the last remaining flyable B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. More than a few have made the Fort Worth museum a second home, volunteering countless hours to keep the venerable war bird flying. Chuckie was also the centerpiece of the museum’s annual gala event, a nostalgia-laden, big band “hangar dance.”
But in October, everyone learned Chuckie was being sold. Museum founder William “Doc” Hospers had died in March, and his widow, Charlyn, whose nickname gave the bomber its moniker, decided it was time to retire. A buyer immediately materialized. Soon enough Gerald Yagen—owner of the Military Aviation Museum of Virginia Beach, Virginia—flew it away to its new home.
But for all the sadness, there is plenty to be proud of, especially knowing what they’ve handed over is in much better shape than the clapped-out crate Doc Hospers first found rusting on a Southeast Alabama airstrip, after it had spent 20 years hauling vegetables and spraying fire ants. Hospers and his friends lovingly restored it to its wartime state, painting it in the yellow and silver of the 486th Bomb Group.
Yagen promises to keep the name, maintain its colors, and fly it back once a year for more hangar dances. But what about the rest of the year when Chuckie isn’t around and you need some heavy bomber action?
Meet Fifi, the last flying B-29 Superfortress, who has been at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum since November. While Chuckie was leading runs over Nazi Germany, Fifi was bombing Japan. In other words, a more than fitting successor. (And she’s looking for a ground crew of her own, if you’re interested.)