B-17E 41-2446 Accidental Visit December 1976
Photos December 1976 All photos
copyright by Jack Mierzejewski, reproduced with permission.
I'm a Brit born of Polish parents in England (my dad flew Spitfires
in Polish 308 Squadron), Now I'm a naturalized Canadian. I visited the B-17 in December 1976 with a Bell
JetRanger 206 helicopter and landed on the right wing tip.
We were on a routine Geological Survey
flight and had never, ever heard of the Swamp Ghost. It was by a sheer
across it! We were on our way from Port Moresby by helicopter
to a maintenance job on the Mount Lamington volcanic observatory.
from a bout of hepatitis, so this was just a pleasure trip for me,
rather than a work project.) A low ceiling kept us at a height of
about 800 ft, when just by chance we flew right over the Swamp Ghost.
course we circled around the bomber for something like 10-15 minutes,
while I clicked off the aerial shots (using Agfa slide film, which
gives the grass its yellowish shades).
We were too heavy to land, but the pilot (Peter Hooper) promised that
he would try to land on our return after we'd unloaded our gear in
Popondetta. Two days later, he did just that. I remember him asking
me to get out of the helicopter, while he sat with he sat with his
hands and feet on the controls, ready to react, and to give the helicopter
a big shake just to make sure it didn't slide off. I grabbed the skid
leg, and pushed with all my might, getting no reaction. So Peter shut
down the helicopter.
All three of us were pilots: Peter Hooper was a
professional helicopter pilot with Ferguson Helicopters, Paddy Ryan,
was a technician working for the Geological Survey, but also a
licensed commercially-rated fixed wing pilot, and though I hadn't yet
my PPL then, I was a certificated glider pilot. So once we spotted
the old girl, we just had to return to land on her wing and inspect
her closely. I tried very hard to see traces of the landing roll
(slide?) from the air, and thought I detected that a slight swing
to one side had occurred before the bomber stopped.
Impressions of the Ghost
This time I was shooting with Kodak Kodachrome
64, which gives the photos their bluey-green hues. We all realized that
we were doing something totally unique, and were overwhelmed by the experience.
I guess that we spent about 30 minutes on the plane (necessary anyway
to cool the turbine before we could restart the helicopter). I was stunned
by how complete the plane was.
feeling was that this lady should remain untouched if at all possible.
50 cal rounds littered the wing. I certainly
would not have taken possibly unstable live rounds. I took nothing from
the wreck, because I considered it a frozen piece of history that should
not be interfered with. At that time the only
reasonable access was by air, so the plane's sanctity seemed assured!
Unfortunately, my colleague, an electronics technician who was also
pilot (and so should have known better), decided to take some electronics
parts as a souvenir.
Interior of the bomber
water everywhere inside, though it wasn't visible from the air (as
but once we landed, it could be seen between the grass stalks and
bushes, and certainly the belly of the aircraft was flooded.
I dropped down through the hatch into the aircraft, and remember
walking forward past the radio operator's position (everything still
of course, with huge radio valves) to the cockpit (instrument panel
gone, everything else still pretty much there). But because of the
water and a fear of snakes, I elected not to go back to the rear
gunner's position (to my eternal regret). There was no footpath to
plane, as I've seen in more recent photos (including the National