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Dry ice used in restoration

  • Published
  • By Nick Apple
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Two historic Boeing B-17 bombers from World War II have undergone a unique method of preparation during their restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The B-17D The Swoose and the B-17F Memphis Belle have been blasted with dry ice to remove dirt, grime and old paint, particularly from difficult to reach areas such as inside of wings and engine nacelles.

Dry ice normally is thought of as a refrigerant, but when crushed, it can be air blasted onto objects to clean them down to their original surface. During the process, the dry ice, a solid form of carbon dioxide, converts into gas, leaving only the removed grime to clean up. The process has been found to be environmentally friendly for use in the industrial community. Members of the museum's restoration team also have found that the dry ice process helps them accomplish more work faster and easier. For the two current projects, the museum rented the blasting equipment and then purchased the dry ice from an area dealer.

The Swoose is the oldest surviving Flying Fortress and the only D model in existence. The Memphis Belle, after having flown 25 bombing missions in Europe, was flown back to the United States by its crew in June 1944 for a three-month war bond and morale boosting tour. It came to the museum for restoration in 2005.

Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of Friends Journal. To receive the Journal and other benefits, become a member of the Air Force Museum Foundation.