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I Forge Iron

Vintage Aluminum


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I got a chance to surround myself with something besides iron this last weekend.

A B-17G named "Liberty Belle" was in Hillsboro Oregon selling rides and while the $430.00 price tag for a hop wasn't in my budget they generously allowed folks to do a free walk thru of the interior.

I've been around vintage aircraft my whole life and did 16 years volunteering in an air museum but this was my first chance to actually get inside a Fortress so I was a fairly excited fella.

This B-17 is fitted out to taking on riders so it's not totally in an original state - the top turret is static with it's mechanisms removed, the bomb bay has a few 500 pounders statically mounted but the bomb racks are gone and the radio operator's station and fuselage aft of the waist gunners are set up with additional seats.

The most remarkable thing to me was that although she certainly wasn't designed for a tall guy like me (see the pic of my portly self squeezing up thru the cockpit) there was a surprising amount of room inside and at 6' 2" I could stand full up at the navigator's station in the nose. My GF though is 5' 1" and she looked like she was right at home.

It was great fun and the frosting on the cake was that they loaded up some paying passengers for a ride and we watched her lumber out and take off - I've seen B-17's in the air a number of times over the years but I just never get tired of those 4 radials running up!

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A few years ago I got the privelage of riding in a B-17 called Aluminum Overcast. The view from the bombadier's seat is super! But I cannot imagine the horror of being inside of one of those planes while people were doing their best to shoot it down. The bravery of those kids (and all the others who have fought for this country) is beyond my comprehension! Thank you all.

Bill Davis

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Bill, I'm envious of your chance to go up in a great old plane - It must have been outstanding! I agree, it's one thing to sit there on a sunny Sunday and wonder but the reality of being in combat in something so thin skinned must have been terrifying - - I'm with you 100% - - To anyone who is serving or has served in our nation's armed forces - THANK YOU!

Ken - That belly turret looked to be nothing short of a very small ball of terror. I remember reading a couple of accounts where a bomber would come in all shot to h*ll, hydraulics out, unable to crank down the gear and the belly gunner would be crushed during a wheels-up landing due to being trapped because the turret was damaged with no way to retract it or rotate it to the escape position.

I will say though that if I had to choose between a ball turret or chopper door gunner, I'd go for the ball turret. At least it can be retracted and you could get out. It seems to me that a door gunner was just a** - out in the wind and only had his pilot's skill and enemy's bad aim to keep him safe - If you served in that capacity or for anyone who has (or is) my hat's off to you with the utmost respect!

Jeff, I really do feel fortunate to have spent so much time around, working on or flying in such a large number of vintage planes - it's an experience I wouldn't trade for the world. I got your PM about Hood River Air Museum - I'm just getting ready to leave Lauren's place in Tigard and head back up to my hill - I'll shoot you a response later today.

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When my youngest boy was five or six we went out to Falcon Field to the Champlain Air Museum to see the old war birds. He sure had a good times since he knew them all by sight anyway, been reading since he was four. He greatly impressed two of the docents who had flown during WWII so they borrowed him for a behind the scene tour of the place and on their lunch break took him down to the Confederate Air Force hanger to see some more things. While we were there a B-17 had landed and was taxing up to the hanger to give rides on the weekend. The two of us got a tour not many would get. I had one happy little kid, dad too. :P

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Hey BI,

That's the sort of thing that can have a huge impact on a kid - kudos to those docents for making something special happen for your son!

I remember many times at the museum where I'd see the look amazement on the kids faces as they took it all in and I'd wonder; " Am I looking at the first human to walk on Mars?" You just never know what single event could change the course of their lives.

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