A Brief Flight in B-17 "909"
The Collings Foundation brought 2 World War II bombers (B-17 & B-24) to the San Jose Jet Center on May 22 and 23, 1999.
I had a chance to take a flight in the B-17!
click on sections of the plane to see pictures taken during my flight
I found a tiny article in Wednesday's "Murky News" stating that a pair of WWII bombers would be on display at the San Jose Jet Center (private aviation center at the San Jose airport) on Saturday May 22. Great! So Saturday morning I arrived at about 9AM, saw the 2 bombers on the tarmac. But I was really surprised when I saw that they were loading a group of people into the B-17 for a "joy ride". Then one of the volunteers asked me if I would like to go for a flight, you can guess the answer. Later that morning we all got the chance to crawl through both the B-17 and the last flying B-24. The next morning I returned again, to find that many others had jumped at the opportunity to fly (I was in the 3rd group of 8 to go up in the B-17, with 2 groups scheduled for the B-24).
The flight lasted about 30 minutes, but we were free to move about the bomber almost the entire flight.
I was seated on the floor directly behind the pilot. My seat was the floor and a plywood seat back topped off with a 4" web belt, but first class on this flight. Almost as soon as we cleared the end of the runway the flight engineer gave us the "ok to move around" signal. I dove between the pilot and copilot into the nose of the bomber (being careful of the nose hatch). The first set of pictures (on companion pages) were taken just as we banked out and came back towards our "base". Wanting to give everyone else a chance at the nose (bombardier & navigator positions). I climbed up to the top turret behind the pilot and copilot (and my "seat"). We then made another aerial pass down the center of the runway. The next series of pictures was taken between the first and second passes from the top turret. Finally I moved back over the bombay catwalk to the flight engineer (radio operator position), where there was a giant hole in the top of the plane. I don't have any pictures from there as we were warned that they could not return for any items "lost over board". Then on back to the waist gunners position, for the next series of pictures. Walking around as the B-17 flew along was not to easy and if you weren't careful when trying to grab a handhold, you could grab what appeared to be a control cable.
Well I certainly enjoyed the flight, I got to live a bit of a "12 O'clock High" and "Catch-22" fantasy, and to support these old plane continuing to fly.
last updated 1999-09-17