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 Bombs over SF Bay

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Juan Freizwidatt
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 12:54 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Like a lot of people, I'm a big fan of Warbirds -- WWII aircraft. Four years ago I had the thrill of flying over San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate in a B-17 bomber, "Liberty Belle." (Sadly, that plane was destroyed by fire last June after making a picture-perfect emergency landing in a corn field in Illinois; everyone got off safely but the plane was totally lost.)

A year later I flew over the vineyards of Sonoma in a B-24, the only one still flying.

Today I went up in another B-17, "Aluminum Overcast." With the loss of the "Liberty Belle," there is only one other B-17 still doing nationwide tours, the Collings Foundation's "Nine-O-Nine." A couple of others fly out of their home bases (and occasional large airshows), and another 2 or 3 are airworthy but not currently flying. Of the nearly 13,000 originally built, only about 10 are still capable of flying.

I fear the days of the public getting to soar in these grand old planes is coming to an end. Aside from losing a plane to an engine fire, it's simply reaching a point where the operators cannot cover their costs anymore. Keeping a B-17 in the air runs over $3,000 an hour, but the number of paying enthusiasts has plummeted. In the past a plane like Aluminum Overcast could count on going up for 4 to 6 flights each weekend day. Yesterday and today they only did a single flight each day. And they've cut their annual tour from 60 locations to 36. They may not do a tour next year.

Some pics:

What a glorious machine:

Image

My daughter took the next 3, and used an app in her iPhone to give them a faded Kodachrome look. Pretty cool.

Image

A group of WWII re-enactors came out to volunteer as ground crew assistants:

Image

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It was a true honor to have an 88 year-old B-17 bombardier veteran flying with us today, thanks to the generosity of his son. He had a difficult time getting around in the plane but with some help he was able to sit in the bombadier's perch in the very nose of the plane, and work the Norden bombsight. He was as happy as a kid. This was his first time in a B-17 since 1945. And he was especially happy that there were no Messerschmidts attacking us:

Image

It's sad that there are so few surviving veterans. Sad

Shortly after takeoff:

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A Chevron oil refinery. This sort of facility would have been a prime target for a B-17 during WWII....

Image

Looking out through the top of the radio operator's section. In the Liberty Belle, this was left completely open so you could stick your head outside the top of the plane. In the Aluminum Overcast there's a plexiglass window. Still a cool view.

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The pilots at work:

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Two of the magnificent Wright engines:

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Sitting in the bombardier's seat in the plexiglass nose cone. The view from this position is mindblowing. But for the young kids who held this position in combat it was the most terrifying and vulnerable spot in the plane. Nothing but plastic around you at top, bottom, front, left, and right...

Image

Anyway, it's an experience like no other and I would strongly encourage anyone who loves these historic planes to take advantage while it's still possible, before they all end up on static display in museums.

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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 1:45 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Great pictures and view of history, Thanks. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2012 2:26 am Reply with quoteBack to top

How amazing! Thank you for sharing. I love flying and enjoyed these pictures very much. In a society that craves the newest and fastest treasures like this get over looked.

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 1:17 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Thanks for sharing, Juan. The pictures are wonderful.

I have always loved airplanes starting with joining Civil Air Patrol in high school and being fortunate to live on Navy bases with all sorts of jets flying over.

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 3:00 am Reply with quoteBack to top

What a fabulous experience, Juan! great pictures. Smile

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 4:41 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Had a great chance to board a A-26 Invader last year. Couldn't muster the courage to ask to go up because of the soup can used to repair an engine...beauty of a bird though real workhorse.

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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:26 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Wow, what a day! I love that you share these treasured moments with us Juan.

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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 6:36 am Reply with quoteBack to top

Great pics., Juan

You warbird enthusiasts may be interested in this story.

World War II fighter found in Egyptian desert

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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 3:25 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Thanks for the link, I hadn't seen that report. It's always amazing when a time-capsule discovery like that turns up. I hope it can be salvaged intact.

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PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2012 9:58 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Great stuff Juan!About 10 years ago I saw Nine-o-Nine come in for a landing at an airport,flying parts in for the Collings Foundations B24 which was painted the time as the famed Dragon and His Tail.Incredible how graceful these old birds can be.

Video footage of the crashed P-40

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=M9LsK74J_W0

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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2012 12:15 am Reply with quoteBack to top

The B-24 I flew in was the Collings Foundation's plane, now fitted up as "Witchcraft." I got to see their Nine-O-Nine B-17 then. They're coming to town in a few weeks, I plan to go see them again. Maybe next year I'll go up in the Nine-O-Nine. Eventually I'd like to fly in every B-17 that is still operating but since the Nine-O-Nine is the last of the ones that comes out here, I'd have to travel to go see the ones that only operate from local bases.

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"SATAN WILL KILL YOU . BECAUSE YOU ARE A DAUGHTER OF MERMAID"

"HOW DOES IT SOUND TO YOU THAT ANOTHER PERSON IS DEALING WITH YOU AND ASK YOU TO CONTACT ANOTHER PERSON AND NOW YOU SAID THAT YOU WANT TO DEAL WITH THE OTHER PERSON WITHOUT THE KNOWING OF THE PERSON THAT ASK YOU TO CONTACT THE OTHER PERSON"

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