Tuesday, July 08, 2008
If I was a K-State basketball player, I would be listed at 6-foot-3, but in reality I'm about 6-0. I was pondering that today as I was attempting to stand upright in the belly of the B-17 bomber "Nine O Nine," which was parked on the tarmac at Joe Foss Field in Sioux Falls, SD. My guess is the ideal waist gunner would be at least three inches shorter than me. At the foot of the waist gunners is the tiny little hatch leading into the ball turret, and all I can say about that is, "No effing way!"
B-17's with their crews of 10 were bombing Germany 65 years ago, which means anyone still alive who crewed these flights is in their 80's or beyond. As someone who is from a generation or so later (and with no military service) it boggles the mind that men had the courage to do such things.
The B-17 and three other warbirds are on the Collings Foundation "Wings of Freedom" tour. The other planes are the B-24 "Witchcraft," B-25 "Tondelayo," and P-51 "Betty Jane." Although I've seen examples of these planes before at various air shows, this was the first opportunity I've had to climb inside the bombers. And if I had been willing to cough up $400 or so, I could have flown in one of the bombers. ($2,200 for the P-51.) The tour continues through the summer in the Midwest and East.
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