Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Wings of Freedom

I was sitting in my office Sunday morning when I thought I heard a four-engine aircraft flying overhead. We occasionally see and hear planes from Logan Airport here, but this was a propeller plane, not a jet. I asked D. whether any local fields housed such craft, and she directed me to check into Beverly Airport. Their website listed the "Wings of Freedom" traveling air show, and Sunday was the last full day.

Among the planes listed for display and tours was a Boeing B-17. This has special significance to D.'s mother, whose brother, Sergeant Hugh Jennings, was killed in 1942 when the B-17 he was riding in crashed on a training flight in Idaho. She wanted to see this one, and so did D. So did I. It was a beautiful day to be outdoors; making the choice between working and heading over to Beverly was easy.

There was a large crowd on hand to see the B-17 "Flying Fortress" and B-24 "Liberator" heavy bombers, P-51 Mustang and Vought F-4U Corsair fighters and T-6 and Stearman (biplane) pilot trainers. Flights were offered (at budget-busting rates) as well as the inexpensive tours inside the B-17 and B-24. We opted to join the long line for the B-17 walk-through.

"Walk-through" is something of a misnomer. Space is at a premium inside these warbirds; most of their bulk is filled with hardware. It was impossible to spend any time inside without thinking of what the crews of these planes experienced under combat conditions. Taking a moment to steady oneself and look around was not an option for those brave men.

Time and the mass of people worked against getting good photography, particularly of the planes' exteriors. Those shots I liked ended up being of details, with people cropped out.

One of the B-17's four Wright "Cyclone" engines

The bombardier and nose gunner's bay

Bombardier's position from outside, with nose gun turret below

The last photo struck me as having a bit of WWII-vintage LIFE magazine feel when converted to black & white.

I know where the B-17 and B-24 are kept when not being sent off to air shows. Their "home" field will be having an event in October, and D. and I are considering heading over for that. There are several other noteworthy aircraft in the collection there, as well as some significant cars.

Just can't get enough of these. I've been fortunate to have seen B-17s and B-24s in flight -- the number of survivors in flying condition is pitifully small, so such opportunities are rare -- and am always ready for more. I'm ready to take many more photos, too.


Fin said...

Do you remember the name of
the '17?

The one I flew, hands on awhile, was the Aluminum Overcast.

Just went for a ride in May in Fifi, the last airworthy B-29, made temporarily a little less so by a tail strike at KFRG the day I was supposed to go.

Once upon a time, up in Geneso, NY, I heard six -17s at once, together with a C-47, P40 and two P-51s all at once. I could only wonder what a hundred or more at once must have sounded like.

MrScribbler said...

Fin -- the '17 was called "9-o-9." Don't know if this was its "war name" or not...I've seen a few similar craft that had new or historic names added by current owners. The '24 was called "Witchcraft."

The largest flights I've seen/heard were of a '17 and two '24s (not the ones shown here) and, once, four P-51s, a Spitfire and a P-38 at an air race. To me, the mass runs of WWII are simply unimaginable....

John0 Juanderlust said...

My father flew B-24s in Europe. It brings back an entirely different era, different behavior and mindset. Sure like to see the best of that era meld with the best of this.