Today’s adventure was one of the best I have ever had. Ever. No… really. EVER.
I started out the day by taking a motorcycle ride. I was looking at ideas for things to do last night and I stumbled across an article about some WWII planes in Port Angeles on display so I decided to go over and see them. There was to be a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, and a P-51 Mustang brought in by The Collings Foundation as an exhibit called “Wings of Freedom”. For a mere $12 admission you could get in the Fortress and Liberator and have a look up close at the insides of these two amazing aircraft. You could also take a flight in them as well. These old planes are so cool, and the things these crewmen did to fly these things in some of the most dangerous conditions was nothing short of incredible.
The day was starting with a beautiful morning but with a chance of afternoon showers. No worries… I was going to go look at planes and come home before I would get wet. On the way over there I saw the B-24 in the distance. DAMMIT… I wanted to see it fly a little closer to me! AS I got on the west side of P.A. the Mustang went barreling overhead headed for the airport. Just behind him and to the north was the B-17. What a sight that was to be looking at flying past!
I got to the airport and there were many people there to see the planes. Very cool to see them parked on the tarmac, but the B-24 was not there yet so I was going to get to see it taxi in! There were many of us standing outside the fence and a guy came by and said to watch out for “prop wash”. The Liberator came in and circled to park. Man… did that get the adrenaline going – along with sand, grass, and a high wind that was buffeting us and all loose objects. I talked with a couple of volunteers from The Spit that I ran into outside the fence. Just before I went in they were preparing the B-17 for a flight to take some people up. We watched the plane taxi away and take off. It was headed right for The Blue Hole over The Spit.
With the rush of that experience I was fired up big time. I went in and got in the planes and looked around in amazement.
Pretty incredible to see them up close like that. These are the planes we saw in WWII war movies and saw numerous stories about over all these years, and here I was, crawling around inside a fully functioning aircraft. Oh man… this is so neat.
With all the excitement I thought about it, and I did consider it last night as I decided to go see these planes… I can go for a flight. In a WWII bomber. Wow… I can go for a flight in a WWII bomber! When I saw the B-17 head for the Strait and then The Spit, my credit card mysteriously leapt from my wallet and it told the guy “he is powerless against the mighty Flying Fortress… sign him up!”.
I took my bike home, got my camera, hearing protection (I knew it would be loud), and a sandwich, then I hopped in the car and was quite ready to burst. I got back to the airport, took care of the final paperwork and waited to go. This was going to be exciting. Flying is a treat, The Spit is a wonderful place and getting to see The Spit from the air will be cool, and to go in one of the greatest airplanes ever built was the cherry on top.
We had a rundown on what was going to happen. Buckle in during takeoff and landing, but otherwise feel free to go anywhere in the plane except the actual cockpit, belly turret, and rear turret… that can only mean WE CAN GO IN THE NOSE GUN!!!! WOO-HOO!!! I was 3rd on the plane, and I ended up in the radio op chair and buckled in. We taxied away and started down the runway. The pilot hit the gas and it threw me back in the set with quite a bit of force. Pretty incredible power (someone told me each engine was 1200 HP). The hatch above us was left off… a sunroof on a bomber! Who’da thunk it!!! As soon as we got the sign, which was not long after we got wheels off pavement, we started milling about. I poked my head up as we banked east and could see the tail-end of the plane against the mountains.
How weird THIS is! It was windy as hell as you can imagine. I had my contacts in so I could not look forward unfortunately. That was amazing. I was glad I had my hearing protectors on… I pulled it away from my ears once and it was very loud inside.
I worked my way forward to get in the nose gun and check that out. With a camera, camera bag, and a jacket it was tedious to get through the tight confines of the passageways to get there. I had to go forward, squeeze through the bomb bay, duck down to get into the area behind the cockpit, then drop down and crawl then come up in to the nose gun. It sits down below and in front of the pilots in a separate area. It was bigger than I thought, and had lots of windows. I was able to get some pictures and see The Spit and my cabin from there as well. I let others have a turn and I crawled back out toward the rear of the plane and got a few other pictures and videos taken.
One of the other guys on the flight took my picture for me:
We got buckled back in to land. We got on the tarmac and got off the plane. What an experience we all had – everyone was grinning from ear to ear. That was an absolutely amazing experience and I would love to do it again. It was so exciting to see these planes, but to get in the air in one was beyond words.
I did take more video, but I am going to try to get it edited together into one group of clips. When I get around to doing that I will get it posted. And, case you are wondering, if some of the videos and pictures look weird where the propellors are concerned it has to do with the shutter speed on my iPhone camera. I did not think to see if that was adjustable.