The 1/3-scale B-17 Obsession, known best as the Bally Bomber, arrived in Oshkosh on July 19 in advance of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 and will be on display both on Boeing Plaza and in the Replica Fighters Association area for most of the week.
Built by Jack Bally, EAA 348338, the Bally Bomber took 17 years and 40,000 man-hours to get into the air and eventually to Oshkosh. Thousands of EAA members have followed its progress for years, and all attendees now have a chance to see the finished result in person.
“The Bally Bomber embodies the spirit of homebuilt innovation and creativity,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “Just like so many other EAAers, I’m really excited to see it firsthand.”
Richard Kosi, EAA 666459, is the Bally Bomber’s test pilot and made nearly 60 visits over 13 years to Jack’s build as an EAA technical counselor. Richard said flying the airplane into Wittman Regional Airport was a special moment for him, despite his long career in aviation.
“I’ve been flying for 60 years,” Richard said. “I’ve been an aircraft mechanic, flight instructor, I teach flying. … It’s the highlight of my career.”
A scaled-down B-17 Flying Fortress is obviously going to be a unique attention-grabber, but Richard pointed out that any homebuilt with four engines is pretty rare in its own right.
Flying the Bally Bomber isn’t the easiest thing to do, but it’s not an insurmountable challenge for Richard, who enjoyed doing passes on his way into AirVenture.
“This is just a lot of fun,” Richard said. “It’s a challenge, a big challenge. It’s underpowered a little bit but it flies. It’s between fair and good on flight characteristics. But what do you expect, it is what it is.”
An easel with information about the B-17 replica stands proudly in front of the aircraft during the day, but Richard is well-aware that he and Jack will be called on to offer much more information. That’s no problem — Richard said they can alternate exploring the grounds and remaining on post by the Bally Bomber.
Jim Schmitt, EAA 212579, was one of the first attendees with questions for Richard about the dutiful replica. Jim flew his Pulsar into Oshkosh on Thursday and made his way over to the Bally Bomber the next day. He said his first reaction was that it is a “cute” little bomber, and all the work that went into it for nearly two decades is apparent.
Even though it’s far different from anything else at the convention, Jim said the Bally Bomber embodies what he loves about Oshkosh: One-off aircraft that you really cannot find anywhere else.
“I like seeing stuff that’s different,” Jim said. “That’s why I come to Oshkosh; there’s always things like this that are different, that are one-offs that you’ve never seen before. That’s what you come to Oshkosh for, are these things right here.”