Well, that was all kinds of awesome!
Something unlooked for and very cool happened yesterday. At lunch time I headed over to a local regional airport for some plane watching therapy. There is a nice patio behind the snackbar and you can sit under the trees and watch the operations. There is a helicopter school on one side, so you get to watch a bunch of takeoffs, landings and hover practice. The main runway is on the other side and there is a continual stream of light planes and the occasional business jet. Plus if there is a fire in the mountains, the areial tankers load up there. The patio is usually empty, so its a great place to get away from the sturm-und-drang of the workday.
So I was pretty surprised to find the main parking lot full. I parked in a secondary lot and wandered over to find that a B-17 and as B-24 were parked right in the front of the patio. They were asking a $12 donation to be allowed to walk through and around the planes, so I enthusiastically paid up and went in for a look.
The B-17 is Nine O Nine, a B-17G that has been restored to flying condition and is being maintained by the Collings Foundation. I wandered around and through her and was again struck by the heroism of the ball gunner. That guy was in a small sphere with TWO fifty caliber machine guns. The breach was right next to his ear. Each shot was louder than a heavy hunting rifle and there were about 1600 of them a minute. The noise must have been literally defening, and there was little chance to get out if the plane got hit. As I wandered under the wings, I noticed something new. There was dohickey that sure looked like a turbo-charger connected to the exhaust pipe of each engine. Later research shows that it was indeed a turbo-charger that could be turned on and off to provide additional power at altitude.
The B-24 is Witchcraft, a B-24J that had been restored to flight status and is being maintained by the Collings Foundation. I have a special place in my heart for the B-24. My daddy had (exceedingly unofficial) stick time in a B-24 near the end of the war and he said it was an amazing experience to fly something that large and powerful. I wandered through it and marveled that something that large can fly with WWII era technology. They had the replica fifty caliber waistguns unshipped and everyone that went through the craft would aim them at imaginary foes and make "bambambam" noises. Even the little old ladies.
Both craft were equiped with Norden bombsights, which are cool pieces of machinery on their own. A friend owns one and again it is amazing that something that complicated was mass produced. They were said to be able to "put a bomb into a picklebarrel from 25,000 feet".
I didn't get to see a takeoff, which is too bad. There may be sweeter music than a four engine bomber reving for takeoff, but I am not aware of it. I take any chance I get to see these old warbirds, there aren't many left and eventually there will be none.
I'd like to extend my thanks to all who serve or have served in our armed forces. Without your hard work and sacrifice, we would not have the liberty or the peace to attend to our investments.