Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Different B-17

I'm a huge fan of old WWII era warbirds, so of course I was out at Abe Lincoln International Airport this weekend to take in the Commemorative Air Force's own restored Sentimental Journey. I would have to say the the B-17 is probably my favorite aircraft of all time and has been since I was like 12, so I never miss an opportunity like this.

No doubt you have all seen the coverage in the local media, including several of the Springfield blogs. And while I took pictures Saturday, and I may post some later, I thought I would instead post some photos I've been wanting to share here for years. These are pictures from the day I actually flew on a B-17.

In July of 1999, a B-17 owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association, called Aluminum Overcast, stopped into Springfield on a mission similar to Sentimental Journey's this weekend: To offer tours and flights to raise money for its upkeep.

I was single at the time and had the $350 cost of the fight. It would be money well spent as far as I was concerned, and I had no one to tell me differently. Well, no one who could do anything about it anyway. I was dating the future Mrs. TEH at the time and she did make the comment that I should do something like this while I was still single because she kinda thought it might be a problem if, say, I were to get married (hint, hint). So sensing my last chance, and a huge desire to do it anyway, I bought my way onto the Aluminum Overcast for a flight.

Here are a few shots of the Aluminum Overcast on the ground before we left.

During the flight, we were able to move around the plane taking turns in the various positions. Standing behind the pilot, I took this one looking out at two of the planes four engines.

This was taken from the radio operator's station looking back toward the tail. They had removed the canopy for ventilation purposes that hot summer day so I was able to stick my head and camera outside the plane.

Sitting in the prime seating of the bombardier's chair in the nose of the aircraft, I snapped this shot of the power plant near Kincaid, IL where, exactly 20 years prior, I was an employee. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined while working at that plant in 1979 that one day I would be looking down on it from a B-17.

Finally, I took this picture at some point before we took off. I saw this elderly gentleman gazing at the plane, alone and almost mesmerized.

I imagined he was remembering heroic, frightening and maybe even tragic experiences he had had on just such a plane. I didn't ask him because I was afraid he might tell me he was a baker in Kenosha during WWII and was just out to see the old warbird like me. Instead, I continue to have this man represent all those brave soles who flew, and often didn't come back from, combat missions in B-17s.

By the way, if you are ever interested in a good movie about the men who flew in the B-17s, try Memphis Bell. If nothing else, watch the trailer to the movie. Twelve O'Clock High is another good one.


allie said...

my husband loves to gloat that i havent truly ridden a plane till i have sat in the back of a c-130 gripping cargo netting holding on for dear life, like he had. either way, im sure riding in that b-17 was well worth the money.

JeromeProphet said...

Frigging Amazing Photos, and Story!

Heard the B17 flying overhead this weekend, just too busy to get out to the airport to check it out this time.

Love that aircraft. Love that whole period, and all those remarkable aircraft.