DIXON – Inside a hangar made of old telephone poles, with a wood-burning stove for heat, Jack Bally has been working on his "obsession."
That obsession, nearly 13 years in the making, is a one-third-scale version of a B-17 G, which Bally hopes will be flyable in 2 years.
The plane, which he calls The Bally Bomber, has a 34-foot wingspan and is 25 feet from nose to tail. The only part of the plane that doesn't work, the 72-year-old Bally said, are the guns.
"All the prints were really good," he said. "They were all up scaled. I had to bring them up three times. They were one-ninth-scale prints, so I had to enlarge all the prints. Every piece on this [plane] has basically been made by hand."
Bally ordered the model airplane prints on Jan. 9, 1999, for $62. He said they were the highest-rated prints he could find. Those same prints hang on the southwest corner of his workspace in rural Dixon.
This will be the fourth of these planes that Bally, a former carpenter, has built. He said he had already built an ultralight Sky Pup, a Kitfox Model 3, and a Georgia Special, as well as some larger and some smaller than the B-17 G.
While the plane looks as if it's complete, with working flaps on the wings and yoke (for steering) in the cockpit, more must be done before he's ready to take to the air, he said. That work includes the hydraulics, gas lines, fuel pumps, all wiring and electrical, and instruments.
"There's a lot left to go," he said.
Among the toughest parts of the build, Bally said, was the landing gear, which were made for a different model of plane, but he modified the parts to fit his.
He doesn't know how much money he has put into his B-17, but the engines and propellers cost $35,000, Bally said.
Each wing has two propellers, and the inside two were the most difficult to install, he said, because to keep everything to-scale, the propeller blades couldn't be too far forward. Keeping them behind the nose window, Bally said, forced him to custom build the engines.
He has been working on the plane for more than 13 years and spent about 27,000 hours creating every piece and driving every rivet, but he's in no rush to finish.
"I would guess 2 years," he said when asked how much time he needs to finish. "I don't know. I don't get big into time limits. It'll happen when it gets there."