Aluminum Overcast is past Golden but not Retired
To get a flight in a WWII aircraft is a memory I will never forget. The
B-17 G Flying Fortress built in Burbank California 1945. I’ve flown in
all sorts of aircraft from civilian to private and high performance Mach
2 Military jets and this experience was incredible like no other!!.
Getting into the craft-- first, the crew chief has to give everyone a
warning that it has been in service over 50 years and it’s considered
experimental from the FAA’s point of view!! No experimenting here this
craft is War proven!!. The crew chief warns that the crew will give the
instructions in case of an emergency--- follow our directions!! When
your walking up to the cockpit the ride will be bumpy do not hang on the
wires across the top!! The pilots get a little annoyed if you try to fly
the plane from the back!!. This plane uses good old cables bell cranks
and pulleys for the control surfaces and if you’re hanging on them, the
pilots can’t fly the plane.
We buckled in ready for engine start and one by one the four
1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines fired off filling the cockpit
with smoke-- “ That’s for ambience “ the crew chief yelled out!! By now
the noise inside was almost deafening with the smell of kerosene and
oil, you feel like you just stepped back in time. The Fortress lined up
on Runway 34 and the pilot and Co-pilot pushed the throttles all the way
forward forcing us back in our seats, loose objects rolling into the
rear of the plane while were going down the runway feeling the power of
a plane built for just one purpose -- bringing the War to the Enemy.
Each plane had a crew of ten—Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator, Bombardier,
Flight Engineer (top turret gunner); Radio Operator, two Waist Gunners,
Tail Gunner and Ball Turret Gunner
After clearing the Airport, we leveled off and headed toward the ocean
-- next to me was two retired Gentlemen, both Veterans and former pilots
of the Mighty B-17. Don Martin (WWII B-17 Pilot 379th BG ) looked at me
almost weeping thinking about when he was just a kid flying in
formations of 1000’s of aircraft over Germany--” this brings back some
very strong feelings, the friends I lost the good times and the bad
times”. I am not a rich man but I would give just about anything to get
behind the controls one more time and push the throttles forward and
feel her in my control.
I moved forward past the waist gunner’s position I met Delores Hall
from Agoura hills Ca. she came out on her 90th Birthday for a flight. “I
worked hard back then building these engines on the assembly line at
Ford motor Company in Detroit…Can’t believe I’ll get to finally fly in
one!” Her son Terry got her a ticket she had a great time!
Moving forward I climbed over the bottom Ball turret into the radio
operator nest, He has a great rear view looking back at the vertical
stabilizer and the smoke trails across the sky.
Going forward squeezing through the Bomb Bay looking down at the bay
doors and a simulated rack of bombs The Crew chief warned not a good
idea to fall down here the doors open with 200 lbs of down pressure and
since we don’t know where your going you’ll have to make other
arrangements to get back home!!
Getting to the front is not easy for someone 6’5”, the pilot and
Co-pilot Neil and Dan were busy flying the plane checking the headings
the gauges and you can see them really moving the Yokes keeping them
under tension and correcting trim. I was standing where the Flight
engineer would stand and operate the upper gun turret with twin 50
caliber machine guns. Between the pilots straight down is, the smallest
of holes to get to the front Bombardier and Navigator position once in,
you have the best view in the house. A perfect fisheye perspective
looking down and side to side. You can sit in this perfect seat with
your head past the sides of the fuselage. The side windows allow you to
look back at all four engines in all there glory!! After about 20
minutes came the sign to buckle up for the landing. It took me an hour
to settle down from the adrenaline rush I had just experienced!! What a
ride!!!!! What a chance to re-live history!! The crew of Aluminum
Overcast: Pilot Dan Bowen Copilot Neil Morrion Crew Chief Bob Prior .