In February 1947, gas station owner Art Lacey announced that he planned to buy a mothballed bomber to attract—and shade—customers. A friend bet him five bucks that it would never happen. “If you told my dad he couldn’t do something,” his daughter Punky Scott says, “then he was going to do it.” The story of how he did it has been Lacey family lore for 70 years.
Lacey borrowed $15,000 and hightailed it to the airport that very night. At Altus Army Airfield, Oklahoma, he bought a well-used B-17 for $13,750. Although Lacey was an experienced pilot, he had never flown anything with more than one engine. But after a few taxi runs, he felt confident enough to take a test hop.
Everything went fine until it came time to land. The landing gear refused to extend, so Lacey bellied in and slid into a second B-17. Fortunately, the War Assets Administration officer took pity on him, and declared it “the worst case of wind damage I’ve ever seen.” Then he sold Lacey another B-17 for a mere $1,500.
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