Boeing B-17 Slurry Bomber & Photos

by J. R. Mathison

December 2012

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These pictures were taken at the slurry tanker terminal at the Durango-La Plata County airport near Durango, Colorado, on some runs to and from slurry drops on forest fires, and on ferrying from Durango back to home base in Spearfish, South Dakota in November 1964 while I was co-pilot on the B-17.

My apologies for the poor quality of these pictures. The camera used was a 'Baby Brownie' with Kodak-Color print film. The roll of 127 color film contained 12 prints, all of which are here. The forty-eight years since the prints were made has resulted in some color fading and bleaching. These prints were converted to digital using a Nikon L-19 camera and a home made camera stand. I did what I could to restore contrast and brightness using the GIMP photo editor under the linux Fedora computer operating system. Now, I wish I had taken lots more pictures, but color film was something new and relatively expensive.

The B-17 Flying Fortress was owned by Arnold Kolb of Black Hills Aviation in Spearfish, South Dakota. The forty-eight years has also dimmed my memory of some of the details of specifications, etc. From others research, the aircraft was Model B-17G-55-BO, Serial 42-102715, and the registration was N66573 as in my own logbook.

An internet search using the serial and registration numbers will yield lots more information on the history and specifications of this aircraft.

November 1964
Durango - La Plata County Airport
Durango, Colorado

B-17G N66573 slurry bomber used for
forest fire fighting.

Gross weight: near 100,000 lbs.
Empty weight: a little over 33,000 lbs.

Within the bomb bays were four slurry drop
tanks totalling approx 2,500 gallons maximum.
We usually carried approx 20,000 lbs. of slurry.

Engines were Pratt & Whitney nine cylinder
1830s with a nominal horse power of 1,250 each
at 80% turbo-supercharger boost.

November 1964
Durango - La Plata County Airport
Durango, Colorado

"The Office"

The center console has controls for four engines:
throttles, carburetor fuel mixture, and propeller RPM.
Also, forward out of sight is the master control
for the four turbo-superchargers.

November 1964
Near Durango, Colorado

A fire burning on the other side
of the ridge.

On the many, many fires to which we hauled slurry,
this is the only picture I took of a fire.
We were normally much too busy to be
bothered with a camera!

November 1964
Four Corners area north of Delores, Colorado

The distant mountain is in Utah.

The snow storm, center, put out
the fire we were to unload upon.

November 1964
Durango - La Plata County Airport
Durango, Colorado

Left to Right:
Arnold Kolb, Chet Anderson, Gil Mullins,
and Bruce Lund.

Note the VW parked atop the 'dollies',
which normally carried the heavy hose
used to load the aircraft slurry drop tanks.

Time drags when not flying!

November 1964
Durango - La Plata County Airport
Durango, Colorado

Sky Hook inc.

Elk hunters photo oportunity by the
owners of the helicopter used in firefighting.

November 1964
Near Silverton, Colorado

Coloful mountain!

November 1964
North of Durango, Colorado

The 'Canyon of Lost Souls' and
the Las Animas River, looking
towards Silverton.

November 1964
Durango, Colorado

High speed, low altitude exit from the
'Canyon of Lost Souls', looking south.

Las Animas River and the north side
of Durango.

Speed blurred!

November 1964
Central Colorado Rocky Mountains

Ferry trip.

Small lake and mountain peaks above timberline.

November 1964
Central Colorado Rocky Mountains

Ferry trip.

Small lake below timberline and
mountain peaks above timberline.

November 1964
Southern Black Hills, South Dakota

Ferry trip.

Number three engine prop feathered
due to out-of-fuel.

Not unusual. We carried most of the fuel
in the outboard fuel tanks to minimize
stress on the wing spars during high gross
weight and heavy turbulence.

Please send E-Mail to: mathison (aatt)
Last revision 2012-12-10