Off I went into the wild blue yonder on a vintage, World War II B-17 Bomber. The kind folks at the Experimental Aircraft Association who flew to Zamperini Field in Torrance, CA from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They flew on the very B-17 Bomber, dubbed “Aluminum Overcast“and it took 10 hours!
Margaret Viola is with the EAA publicity team. She told me the 10 hour flight was chalk full of amenities, like army-style seat belts. Oh, that was it. The plane does not have an air pressure lock like airliners. No, you can feel the air, and the rain, from your seat. Plus, with all that “flow-through ventilation,” oil and gas vapors from the four prop engines make for an aeromatic experience. Did I mention they flew for 10 hours?
As uncomfortable as this sounds, the B-17 Bomber, for it’s time, was an aviation engineering marvel. It was called “The Flying Fortress” and it was armed to the hilt with 50 caliber machine guns and a bomb bay filled with some serious blasting power ready to drop on enemy targets across WWII Europe.
[nggallery id=2]My flight on the B-17 Bomber was nothing short of spectacular. It was loud, and on a beautiful Southern California day, I could see for miles. Inside, the gun turrets are armed with 50 caliber machine guns (they were locked), and the bomb bay was packed with bombs (I’m guessing they were inert) ready to go.
The highlight of the trip was my meeting Ignacio Sanchez, a 90-year old WWII veteran who was a B-17 Bomber ball turret gunner. He would lay on his back inside the steel turret on the belly of the plane and fire at incoming planes. He says he would be in there for 12 hours at a time. During a 7 months period, he flew 35 missions with the 305th Bomb Group. He’s pictures in the photo gallery on this page. Sharp as a tack, he was also agile enough to crawl into the nose of the plane and enjoy the view of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It was an honor meeting and talking with him. I think his eyes welled up a little when the plan took off. I can only imagine his memories.
You can enjoy a ground tour of take a 40 minute flight on the Aluminum Overcast” this weekend (4/26-4/28) at Zamperini Field in Torrance, CA. For more information, visit B17.org
Check out these videos of my day at Zamperini Field: