B-17 stop in Rantoul shortened by repairs

UPDATED 10:10 a.m. Tuesday.

RANTOUL — People wanting to tour and fly in a vintage B-17 bomber Saturday and Sunday — and Tuesday — were disappointed.

The bomber Texas Raiders, which was scheduled to fly to the Rantoul airport from Branson, Mo., Friday afternoon, did not arrive until Sunday afternoon. It was to leave Tuesday morning.

Mechanical difficulties stalled the plane's arrival.

Mark Hanson, curator of the Chanute Air Museum, which sponsored the visit, said a problem with magnetos in two of the plane's four engines caused the delay.

"They troubleshot for that for about two days," Hanson said. "They flew up their mechanic from Texas to help their engineers, who were on the plane."

The two magnetos were replaced.

Hanson said rainy weather is believed to have caused the problem.

"They didn't fly for a day or two in Branson," Hanson said. "They got quite a bit of rain. They think that the driving rain got in there and got those magnetos wet."

While officials tried to get the word out that the plane was delayed, many people didn't find out in time.

Hanson said a number of people who showed up Saturday and Sunday were disappointed there was no B-17 to tour or ride in.

One saving factor Saturday was the presence of a P-51 Mustang, another vintage World War II plane, that Butch Schroeder of Danville flew to Rantoul.

"That helped take the edge off," Hanson said, noting that the P-51 is just as prestigious as the B-17.

The P-51, however, was not present Sunday.

"We had some people pretty angry that we weren't notifying people enough (that the B-17 wouldn't be available)," Hanson said. "The B-17 folks were working very hard to get it here as soon as they could.

"They were working well into the night. They were doing everything they could do, and we did everything we could do."

The bomber's arrival was to have been a major fundraiser for the air museum. Hanson said the museum still "had a very good weekend," but likely won't make as much money as it would have.

To make up for not arriving on time, officials tried to reschedule flights as much as possible, but some people's schedules didn't allow it, Hanson said.

The B-17 was scheduled to leave Rantoul Tuesday afternoon before heading to Indianapolis and then Dayton, Ohio. Then it was announced the plane would leave Tuesday morning.

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