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Well, that was all kinds of awesome!



July 03, 2009 – Comments (9)

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.


9 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 03, 2009 at 11:39 AM, madcowmonkey (< 20) wrote:

souns like a fun day.

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#2) On July 03, 2009 at 11:46 AM, CoastalTrader (97.37) wrote:



As a fellow warbird enthusiast,  I would have been happy to spend the afternoon with you checking out the BUFF's.

If you have the cash available to spend on "a once in a lifetime experience", might I suggest that you check out North American Topgun 

You can spend the day dogfighting with vintage T-6 Texans, which were, of course,  the advanced 2 place trainers of WWII.  I did it several years ago and it was truly awesome.   Those fighter pilots truly earned their pay when it was "rush hour".


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#3) On July 03, 2009 at 12:36 PM, TSIF (99.98) wrote:

Were any of the "imaginary foes" the "ol' ladies" were shooting down named AIG, GM Bonds, Madoff, Wachovia, etc.???  :)

Thanks for sharing!  Life on a submarine was not nearly as exciting!  :)

May others remember the 4th of July in context.....


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#4) On July 03, 2009 at 1:19 PM, threepaweddog (28.08) wrote:

My timing is good for once!  I decided to check the blogs and came across yours.  The warbirds are up here at the Fort Collins-Loveland Airport for the next three days, and, with your description and recommendation, I'll definitely be checking them out.  Thanks.

As an engine fixer and electronic systems whiz (at least 1940's era technology), my uncle also had some "exceedingly unofficial" time at the controls of a B-24, but his flight experience was mostly towing targets for P-51s and P-47s off the Texas coast and sub hunting off the Atlantic seaboard during WWII in B-26s.  The way he described it, most of the "real" pilots were overseas and they let the engineers be the co-pilots during some of those training and reconnaissance missions.  I have no idea whether that was official USAAF policy of he was just lucky. He had a similar description of the B-24 to your father's -- ridiculously thrilling and fun.  

Happy 4th of July!


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#5) On July 03, 2009 at 2:11 PM, GNUBEE (< 20) wrote:

You are right, awesome machines.

Once a year (usually around fathers day) the local airport up here has a WWII weekend. They end up chock full of any implement, armament, shelter and garb from WWII.

I still have to decide that a 30min flight in a b17, B24 is worth the 500 or so greenbacks, but boy do I want to. Up until three years ago they had the only flying B-29 come in (structural rust found, being resto'd). Missed out on that one. Imagine that- a trip in the same plane as the Enola Gay. I agree those are very viceral machines, and they won't be flying for ever.  If you are close and this is something you'd like I'd strongly suggest attending (but come REAL early)


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#6) On July 03, 2009 at 4:21 PM, FleaBagger (27.52) wrote:

The thing about Norden bombsights was that they didn't accurately account for wind, and thus carpetbombing was born.

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#7) On July 03, 2009 at 9:19 PM, portefeuille (98.91) wrote:

sturm-und-drang of the workday?

May I ask what kind of a job that is? Must be an interesting one ...


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#8) On July 07, 2009 at 10:25 PM, spugnik (77.28) wrote:

That is an awesume day!!!!!

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#9) On July 09, 2009 at 6:21 PM, BravoBevo (99.97) wrote:

Nice post. I'm glad that you were stumbled upon that wonderful opportunity last week.

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