B-17 Flight - 61st Anniversary of D-Day
On the 61st Anniversary of D-Day (June 6, 2005), Brian MacDonald and I
took a ride on one of EAA's B-17's. We started the day at Seattle's, Museum of Flight.
In our pre-flight briefing we were warned:
Our flight was on the B-17G known as Fuddy Duddy. While this aircraft has no combat time
it served as a VIP transport plane in the Pacific Theater carring General MacArthur and General
Dwight D. Eisenhower.
About 30 seconds after take-off, we were given the all clear signal
that we could get up and move about the plane. Since we were sitting in the
radio room in the middle of the plane, we were able to quickly unclick and clambor
into the nose. Flying about 500 feet, Brian and I just got in place to see our low
pass over Lake Washington and the south end of Mercer Island.
In the CockpitLooking at the instruments as we tooled around Lake Washington and Puget Sound, I
found that we were cruising around at about 170 MPH at between 700 and 1000 ft above the ground!Tail BubbleThe B-17 has several plexiglass bubbles through which you can peer in all directions in the sky
(to search for enemy fighters). I took this picture of the tail from the dome above the radio room at
mid-ship.Waist Gunner - BrianBrian operates one of the "waist gunner" machine guns in the back of the plane.Waist Gunner - MikeI take my turn scanning the skies for enemy fighters.Bombardier Roof BubbleThe bombardier and navigator sit in a compartment beneath and in front of the pilots. Looking forward
you can see the roof bubble that they can look through at their station (it can also be used to make
funny faces at the pilot).Wright Cyclone EnginesThe B-17 is powered by four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone Model R-1820-97 engines.
These radial engines each have nine cylinders. Total fuel consumption is around 200 gallons per hour.
Normal range without extended tanks is 1,800 miles.Racing the Victoria ClipperWe race the Victoria Clipper on it's morning run from Seattle to Victoria. We're only moving about four
times faster than the clipper (160 knots vs. 40 knots).Washington State FerryView of a Washinton State Ferry from the flight deck. Note that the pilot's picture is being taken
from the bombadier's bubble at the same time.Norden BombsightThe Norden bombsight allowed the bombardier to
calculate a bomb's precise release point in order to hit a target on the ground.
He would enter data such at airpeed and altitude. A gyro-stablizied telescope allowed him to track the position of the target
during the bombing run. A mechanical systems of gears and motors would then solve the bombing problem and determine how
to correct for lateral drift and the optimal drop time.
- Don't touch the exposed control cables in flight
- If you drop something on the bomb-bar doors - leave it. If
you stand on the doors to retrieve something they can open in
The Norden sight was one of the top secret technoligies of World War
II (the other most important ones being Radar and the Atomic Bomb).
Notice how the foward nose bubble has a section of optical quality glass that allows for precise viewing well forward of
the aircraft's current over-the-ground position.View from the Navigator's StationLooking back at our pilots.Brian at the Bombardier's StationAnother good view of the Norden Bombsight and it's positioning in the nose of the plane.Bomb BayAfter 30 minutes of flying, it was time for us to get back in our seats. This picture is from the
radio operator room, looking forward into the bomb bay and cockpit. The noise level in the bomb bay
is dramatically greater than that in the rest of the plane (though it's all pretty loud; we have to shout to
communicate).Brian and I in front of Fuddy DuddyOnce back on the ground, we take a few minutes for pictures in front of the plane.Dick Nelms - B-17 PilotAfter our flight, we got a chance to talk to Dick Nelms,
a WWII B-17 pilot. Dick successfully flew 35 missions over Germany. Given the odds during the war, Dick was one "Lucky Bastard"
(which he tells me is the certificate they give you when you finish your B-17 tour). Dick told us a few stories of his experiences.
On one mission they were flying up-wind over Berlin; which required they spend a full 30 minutes over the bombing site. The
anti-aircraft guns put 300 holes in his plane on that missions alone.B-17G NoseWhat a treat it was to be able to go on this flight; as well as doing it on the 61st Anniversary of the D-Day invasion.
Thanks to the EAA, the Cascade Warbirds and the
Museum of Flight for making this fllight possible.