The WWII-era B-17 bomber will head to Aurora State Airport to be restored -

The Lacey Lady has been stuck at an altitude of about 15 feet for nearly seven decades. If all goes according to plan, however, the World War II-era bomber will one day reach much greater heights.

But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before the B-17 — until recently held aloft by steel supports in front of The Bomber restaurant in Milwaukie — can fly again.

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The B-17 Lacey Lady was brought to Milwaukie in 1947, where it has since sat beside The Bomber restaurant and gas station. On Aug. 13 the plane was lowered to the ground by Emmert International crews in preparation for shipping to Aurora, where it the plane will be restored and made flightworthy once again. To start, the aircraft needs to be cleaned and disassembled. That began Aug. 13, when the Lacey Lady was brought gently to the ground. Ultimately, the B-17 will be hauled to a hangar at Aurora State Airport, where it will be restored.

“It’s the end of an era, and a new beginning,” said Terry Scott, director of the B-17 Alliance Museum, which sits alongside The Bomber restaurant on McLoughlin Boulevard.

Art Lacey, grandfather-in-law to Terry Scott, bought the B-17 in 1947 and brought it to The Bomber, which was at that time a gas station.

For the next eight weeks, the aircraft will remain on the grounds of The Bomber restaurant, surrounded by a fence and with 24-hour security, as the airframe and wings are cleaned out and then taken apart in preparation for the move to Aurora.

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - An Emmert International employee works on the B-17 Lacey Lady as the vintage plane is lowered slowly to the ground last Wednesday. It will be disassembled and shipped to the Aurora State Airport for restoration. “It’s a piece of history that we want to see preserved to carry and continue its new mission,” said Sean O’Brien, director of operations for the B-17 Alliance. “It’s already served a mission of over 60 years out here as a local landmark, and now it’s ready to go on to its new mission to finish the restoration that began a number of years ago.”

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Jayson Scott, grandson of The Bomber founder Art Lacey, speaks with reporters Aug. 13 outside The Bomber restaurant. Previously, the restoration team removed the Lacey Lady’s nose section, chin turret, four engines, ailerons and flaps.

The nonprofit B-17 Alliance, formed several years ago with the goal of restoring the Lacey Lady, has already pumped more than half a million dollars into the project. The group hopes to raise $3 to $5 million in coming years to see the project through.

The Alliance hopes to have the Lacey Lady restored and certified for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration within 10 years.

On August 13, a crowd gathered to see the local landmark taken down from its supports.

“When I was a young boy, my dad would stop for gas and you’d get to climb up and sit in the cockpit,” Alliance volunteer Fred Bremner recounted as he watched the crew work on the plane.

At that time, he added, Art Lacey himself would routinely come out and hold court at customers’ tables.

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Decades-old graffiti still adorns the interior of the Lacey Lady, long lost reminders of the days when the plane remained open to the public. A childs fall and subsequent lawsuit put an end to that practice back in 1965. “The Scott family has been so dedicated and persistent in preserving this,” Bremner said. “Now what we need is to get the word out and help see this thing fly. ... It’s deteriorating and we’ve got to get it into a covered hanger. But it’s not going to deteriorate anymore, we’ve got people dedicated to that.”

Budgeting for such a large restoration, which will call for parts that haven’t been manufactured for many decades, can be difficult.

“Cost is always hard because there’s not a set price for all the different parts involved,” O’Brien said. “A lot of those parts have to be custom-made, and a complete list of parts hasn’t been determined. It could cost an additional $1 to $3 million on top of what’s already been spent or achieved so far.”

Getting bombed on the bomber

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The Bomber restaurant in Milwaukie draws its name from the Lacey Lady, a B-17G that has lived at this spot along busy Highway 99 since 1947. Now, the plane is going to Aurora State Airport, where it will undergo restoration. The Lacey Lady is said to have been the venue for plenty of raucous, impromptu parties. In fact, the graffiti still exists inside the airframe to prove it.

“When it was originally placed up in the air, it even had all the armaments in it,” said Jayson Scott, grandson of Art Lacey and an Alliance board member. “It was a totally intact plane; but over the years, with people going through, they walked through six sets of floorboards and there was a lot of fatigue.

In 1965, the threat of a lawsuit over a child who fell out of the B-17 prompted Lacey to close the plane to the public.

The lawsuit, among other reasons:

“By that time, people were stripping stuff out of it, people would go up there and have wild parties and my grandpa would have to go and run them out of there,” Scott said. “So it was a probably a good thing that it did happen to some degree, unfortunately.”

Did you know?

Photo Credit: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The pigeons that long ago took up residence inside the wings and fuselage of the Lacey Lady were evicted July 13 as the B-17 was lowered to the ground for cleaning and shipment to Aurora Airport for eventual restoration.The Lacey Lady was the second B-17 that Art Lacey bought from a base in Oklahoma, according to an account from the B-17 Alliance website. He promptly crash landed the first B-17 he purchased for $13,000 — about $139,000 in 2014 dollars — thanks to a bad landing gear. Luckily for his sake, the head of the base sold Lacey another bomber for $1,500, all the money Lacey had left.

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