Yes family and friends; as mentioned in a previous column, I became one of those lucky individuals who were given the opportunity to become a passenger on the B-17 bomber that landed at the Baldwin County Regional Airport for tours. According to research, there are only a few B-17s still airworthy today which include the “Memphis Belle”, “Sentimental Journey”, “Nine O Nine” and the “Aluminum Overcast”, the plane that I toured and then experienced an unforgettable flight.
When I saw the announcement about the planned visit, I began gathering some of the mementos that belonged to daddy to take on my visit. Our daddy, Forrest Scott from Terrell County, Georgia, trained and served during World War II on a B-17 bomber just like the one that visited our airport.
I was convinced that people would be interested in seeing his picture in his bombardier gear, his original dog tags that were slotted to fit his mouth in case he was killed in action and was correct, members of the crew were excited to see his personal belongings. They were able to identify several items as tools he used to adjust equipment pertaining to bombs and the on-board machine guns during his days of flying on a bomber.
Entering the inside of the bomber gave me chills knowing that our dad trained on a similar plane, possibly on this one, and then spent the rest of the war training airmen to fill the various positions on the craft. The wartime crew consisted of a pilot, navigator, engineer, bombardier, radio operator and four gunners and in most cases a co-pilot but everyone was trained to replace other crew members that might be disabled during a mission.
Our daddy was a certified ball-turret gunner or bombardier but he was cross trained to replace any of the gunners or the navigator, and told us that in an emergency, they were all given instructions of how to put the plane on the ground safely if the pilot was unable to land the aircraft. He was grateful that he never had to be the one to land a plane.
Once we were airborne and leveled out, we were allowed to walk around and tour the plane, there are countless ways of holding on as you roam around but you have to be careful not to touch the control wires that are visible in the ceiling of the craft. There are hand-holds to use and places to brace your feet but you have to locate them and move around the plane carefully. Remember this plane is considered vintage at possibly eighty years old; we used some of the seat belt equipment as the original crew members.
The aircraft is not insulated or pressurized and the noise from the massive four prop engines is so deafening that you cannot verbally communicate over the sounds. The box radio operated by the navigator was mounted on a desk along with his head-set and a Morse code keying device.
To be continued.