Glacier Girl

Posted by lex on June 23rd, 2007

In what has to be graded as an “A” for stick-to-it-iveness (even if they get an “F” for on-time delivery), an entrepreneurial group is preparing to fly a World War II vintage P-38 Lightning from Teterboro Airport in New Jersey to London.

The plane was one of six Lightnings and B-17 Flying Fortresses that were to be delivered to the European Theater of Operations in July of 1942. Damn Interesting’s Alan Bellows has more:

Allied forces began Operation Bolero, a daring and risky effort to bring American planes to the European theater by way of secret airbases in the far north. As part of this operation, on 15 July 1942 two Boeing B-17 bombers were being escorted by six Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighters as they flew over Greenland towards Reykjavik, Iceland. Early in the morning, the flight group encountered syrupy clouds which forced the pilots to climb over 12,000 feet to regain visibility. As the planes gained altitude, temperatures inside fell to ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The men in the planes tried to improvise ways to keep warm, such as rerouting the defroster into the cabin, but it did little to help. At about 7:15am, after encountering extreme numbness due to cold and continued poor visibility, the pilots decided to return to the airport they had departed from. But the weather behind them had worsened, and the men became disoriented in the severe conditions. After ninety minutes of flying blind with only intermittent radio contact, the clouds cleared sufficiently for the flight group to ascertain its position: they were over the east coast of Greenland, about two hours from the nearest airport… and they had only twenty minutes of fuel remaining. The men had no choice but to crash-land on the icecap of Greenland.

And there the “Lost Squadron” sat for 50 years, when a team bored 268 feet through the ice pack to remove the plane piece by piece for a restoration that would take 10 years and thousands of man hours. One of the original pilots – and the last survivor – will fly alongside Glacier Girl as she makes her way to Europe.

Godspeed to all.

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Filed under Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Flying, History, Military

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