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Preserving history in Tulare: B-17 shines again

Preserving history in Tulare: B-17 shines again

An historical landmark in Tulare is getting a much needed facelift. A team of volunteers is putting the shine back in a B-17 bomber.

The plane has been sitting at Mefford Field for nearly sixty years and it desperately needed paint and polish.

They call themselves B-17 Rescue. This team of polishers and painters has been working to preserve Tulare's B-17 Bomber since Saturday.

Greg Stathatos is the leader of the group. "It's a passion. Everybody who's doing any work here is all volunteer. It's all a passion. It's about preserving history."

The men in the white coveralls are all in the auto detail business. They come from six different states to do this for free.

Joe Fernandez is from Los Angeles. "We have a passion for shining aircraft. We have a passion for shining anything." The B-17 is called Preston's Pride.

It honors Four star General Maurice A. Preston who was schooled in Tulare. The bomber was built in May 1945, too late to fly in World War II.

A year later it was used on "Operation Crossroads" which involved atomic testing in the Marshall Islands. It's been a fixture at Mefford Field in Tulare since August 1958.

Restoring the B-17 has been a priority for Stathatos for the past fifteen years. "I used to stop by here every single time and each trip it was getting worse."

The goal is to finish the job by Wednesday. "It's a great feeling. It's definitely an emotional feeling because so many people have put their efforts into this."

"The reactions so far people are actually amazed. They're really happy we're getting thumbs up. We're near the freeway here and people driving by blow their horn. So reaction has been very positive." Following the painting the polishing volunteers will add the military markings to the aircraft.

There will be an unveiling of the fully restored plane on Saturday May 12th at Mefford Field in Tulare. The festivities begin at ten in the morning.

Over the next few month the interior of the aircraft will be restored as it appeared in 1946 for Operation Crossroads the Atomic bomb testing in the Bikini Atoll on July 1, 1956 and again on July 25, 1946.

B-17 Rescue is seeking old pictures of the bomber since it's been in Tulare. Here's the where you can send them: Greg@B17Rescue.com.

Click here to visit B17 Rescue online.

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