What an incredible flight! My husband and I recently flew in “Nine-O-Nine,” a WWII vintage B-17 G owned and operated by the Collings Foundation. The B-17 along with a B-24 and a P-51 are touring the country as part of Collings 2018 “Wings of Freedom” tour.
Since I took so many pictures that I want to share, I will split them up into more than one post. I’ll start with the in-flight shots on “Nine-O-Nine.” The on-the-ground pictures will be in a later post.
Let’s start with me waiting to take off. Notice that we are sitting on the floor in the waist gunner positions. No luxuries here.
Once in the air we were allowed to move around in the plane so that’s what I did. Here is the waist gun position looking out over the wing.
Next comes a view of downtown Jacksonville way in the distance. We flew out of Cecil Field so we were a few miles west of downtown. It’s in the mist but if you enlarge the picture you can see the skyline.
After getting my flight legs in the moving plane, I managed to find hand holds and made my way around the ball turret. Looking down I could see daylight around the unoccupied gunner position. Not wanting to drop my cellphone when the plane made unexpected movements, I decided to put it away and only use the camera hanging around my neck on what was proving to be an unsteady journey through the plane.
I moved from the waist gunner area forward into the radio compartment. There were eight passengers on board for our flight. This lady sat in the radio operators position.
Beyond the radio compartment is the bomb bay. Notice the narrow walkway, just wide enough for my foot, and the small ropes to hold to steady yourself. The v-shape of the bomb supports made for a tight fit as I squeezed through grabbing for something solid to hold onto. Imagine having to do this at 20,000 feet with the bomb bay doors open. Not for the faint of heart.
Beyond the bomb bay is the flight engineer’s position right behind the pilots. Here the top was open. Very windy for the passenger looking out. Out to the side the flight engineer could view the engines from his spot behind the pilots.
We were told not to talk to the pilots during the flight and, believe me, we all wanted them to focus on flying this large, four-engine airplane. They did a fabulous job. Notice that the co-pilot is a woman. Reminds me that the WASP pilots flew B-17’s around the U.S. during the war.
Now down into the small passageway leading to the nose. I had to drop down to the wooden surface, and then get down on my hands and knees and crawl into the nose where the navigator and bombardier sit.
Straight ahead is the bombardier’s position surrounded by Plexiglas. Notice the gun sight in the center and the machine gun that he operated.
On the left side of the nose is the navigator’s desk. This would have been where the hero in my novel, “Kitty’s War,” sat. Again, there is a machine gun, not in the picture, that he fired when needed.
Back in the waist gunner positions my husband and two other passengers look out the windows.
Another view out the windows at the river below as we head back to the airfield.
And, finally, me standing in front of the gun at the waist gunner position with my wild “bomber” hair style. What a fun, once-in-a-lifetime experience.