August 10, 2008

Flying Fortress

A restored B-17, Liberty Belle, is visiting the area and my family and I made it out to Chesapeake to see it. The interior is Spartan with the cockpit nothing more than two chairs, bare metal yokes, throttles, and a few guages.(Yours truly managed to enter the aircraft through the tiny hatch just aft of the cockpit, after the blonde in front of me failed to get her feet up high enough to perform the feat.) There are only fourteen of these old war horses still flying out of the fifteen thousand produced. If one come to your area, make it a point to see it.

This is footage of Liberty Belle taken last month in Scotland:

Posted by LMC at August 10, 2008 07:23 AM | TrackBack

I got to see the interior of a Fort AND a Lib at a fly-in in San Diego with my dad, a couple years before he passed away. We had hoped to actually fly in one, but the tickets were to steep. Now he's gone, and I wonder how long it'll be before they are.

Posted by: Boy Named Sous at August 11, 2008 01:52 AM

I got to work on a b-17 about 15 years ago. Came in to the airport that I worked Air National Guard at for an airshow, and they had avionics issues.
Typically when you get to see inside, you can't wander around, but I got to crawl all over the entire aircraft, including sitting in the tail gunners seat. Wish I had a camera that day!

Posted by: Chad at August 11, 2008 11:37 AM

A counterpoint:

The men who flew and maintained these aircraft, and the men and women who built them, did so with a deadly fate just visible at the horizon. Their days were not filled with optimism and happiness, and their time on the earth often ended in terror and loneliness. The bouncy music and nostalgia that accomponies the video is misleading; the crew of a B-17 had little chance of going home and sitting "under the apple tree".

Imagine that small area just behind the cockpit at 20,000 feet, filled with oil and gas fumes, too noisy to be heard, and 20 degrees below zero. None of the crew of 10 men were over 25 and most had never been in an airplane before they entered service. Now imagine one of the four engines spewing oil and flames from a flak hit and the belly gunner turret shattered by a cannon shell from one of many defending fighters. The tail gunner was killed during the first attack from the rear and you heard him call for help over the intercom. That same fighter chewed up the right wing and the other engine on that wing with cannon and machine guns. The airplane begins a slow roll to the right and you might think that the pilot is making an evasive maneuver, but he's dead from a head-on attack. The airplane is not flyable and she is turning over on her back, the two right engines on fire. The co-pilot can't keep her straight and level long enough for anyone to get out. Now the ship is stalled and begins to spin, pinning the surviving men against the inside of the fuselage--slippery with blood and spent .50 caliber casings, and full of smoke. She is alone in her last moments, the other ships in her formation watch for 'chutes but only for a few seconds. You are cold, you can't breathe or move, and you are terrified. Then it's over.

Other crews saw what happened, the same scene has played many times before. They know their chances and know their likely fate, and they climb aboard their ship for the next mission.

Dan Patterson

Posted by: Dan Patterson at August 16, 2008 07:03 AM