“Chuckie” seen at the Military Aviation Museum in Pungo, Virginia last year before Jack Erickson bought her. (photo by Richard Mallory Allnutt)
“Nothing stays the same for ever”, as the saying goes, and the time has come for the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress known as “Chuckie” for over three decades to receive a new name. She will soon become “Madras Maiden”, which might take a little getting used to for some, such was “Chuckie’s” fame. The late “Doc” Hospers, who bought “Chuckie” in 1979, named her after his wife, and because of that connection the B-17 sort of took on a life of its own. This connection continued even when Hosper’s widow sold the Fortress to Jerry Yagen in 2010, as he assured the name would remain for as long as he owned the Fortress. However, Yagen sold the B-17 to Jack Erickson last year, and the Fort’ made her way out to Erickson’s marvelous collection in Tillamook, Oregon. Erickson will soon move his aircraft to a new base in Madras, Oregon. Because Madras served as a primary training based for B-17 crews during WWII, some of the museum volunteers felt that renaming “Chuckie” to honor those crews would be a fitting tribute to their sacrifice, and it’s hard to argue against that. Jack Erickson agreed, and that’s why this summer noted aviation artist and nose-art historian Gary Velasco will travel out to Madras to paint the new name and artwork on the B-17’s fuselage.
The B-17 “Chuckie” when she was part of Jerry Yagen’s collection, Picture taken during the 2013 Warbirds Over The Beach Airshow. ( Photo by Moreno Aguiari)
In a recent interview, Velasco told WarbirdsNews,
“The new nose art and name will be “Madras Maiden” with a pinup. I will go out there in June to do this and will document along the way with noted photographer Lyle Jansma who was instrumental in putting this whole concept and deal together.” As one of the top aircraft nose art specialists in the country, Gary takes great pride in his painstaking efforts to accurately render historical markings so as to preserve and teach future generations of the enormous risk and sacrifice made by American aircrew during their service. An Artist, author and musician, Velasco runs Fighting Colors
, a small company that specializes in producing the finest nose art products on aluminum panels which closely resemble skin from an actual vintage warplane. These vary from small-scale replicas to 12 foot full-scale hull sections. He has also painted the nose art for many warbirds currently flying, including the Commemorative Air Force’s B-24A Liberator, “Diamond Lil”.
Gary Velasco painting the nose art for the CAF’s B-24 “Diamond Lil” during her re-paint a couple of years ago.
“Madras Maiden” will be a flying representative for the community of Madras, Oregon and the Erickson Aircraft Collection while touring the Pacific Northwest and visiting regional air shows and other aviation museums. Jack Erickson and his museum manager Mike Oliver both agreed that the new name made sense. Community Leaders in Madras, Oregon have also embraced the idea as well, and have even gone so far as to donate $5000 towards the new nose-art. They are excited to have the Erickson Aircraft Collection relocate to their small town, and are dedicating a monument to the Madras Army Air Corps base this August nearby two of the original B-17 maintenance hangars built during WWII. So big things are happening out west, and while some might be sad to see “Chuckie” changing her name, her story will always be remembered. As “Madras Maiden” the B-17’s future seems bright, and full of renewed purpose. We at WarbirdsNews look forwards to seeing what creations Gary Velasco comes up with for her new artwork as well.