Thousands of B-17 Flying Fortress’s where produced and used through-out WWII, but only ten remain flying. The Collings Foundation operates one of them, touring the country and bringing history to life. I was fortunate enough to fly in their B-17 known as Nine O Nine.
Strapped in and ready to go, I heard the first of the four giant radial engines fire up and roar to life. Soon all the motors were running, and the big bomber was ready for its next mission. We taxied down the runway at Moffett Field, and started to take off. I felt the strong force of the motors and braced myself against their mighty pull. The sound was magnificent. A four part concerto of mechanical mayhem. In a few moments we were up in the air and the signal was given that we were allowed to move about the aircraft.
I popped up and took a look out the large open roof hatch at the tail of the plane. We cruised over the south part of the San Francisco Bay at about 150 mph. There was a cross-wind, and I watched the back of the plane gently rock side to side. Amazing! I worked my way towards the rear of the plane and took a look out the side windows with machine guns hanging out of them. I can see the motors running and the Air Force markings on the wings. Next I started toward the front of the plane. I felt the rush of the air and heard the loud roar of the motors. I was absolutely thrilled. Around the ball-turret, back through the radio room, I gingerly walked down the very thin walkway straddling the bomb-bay doors to an area just behind and below the cockpit. I crouched down and entered the nose of the plane. I stopped for just a moment to take it all in. The whole nose is glass, flanked by machine guns left and right. In the center is the bombardier’s seat. I pointed to the seat and one of the crew gives me the approving thumbs up. I took a quick peek down the bomb-site, then out at the spectacular view. Before I knew it, we were landing and my adventure was over, but my love affair with the B-17 will never end. See part one of this story for more details about the B-17.