|I walked over to the gate by the
fence. It was not immediately
obvious who I should talk to about the B-25 flight. Mary came over
I told her about the difficulty with the camera. I switched lenses
the hope that it would clear the situation. It did not.
As I was
kneeling there someone from the Collings Foundation came
over to me. He said that they were ready for my B-25
flight. They were
looking for just one other guy. If I was ready I could walk back
to the B-25. The man headed over to the B-25. I followed behind
about ten feet. It was a strange feeling walking out there without
supervision of an escort. It was like I was part of the operation
now. The man stopped at the B-25 and turned around. It became
that he was the pilot for this flight.
He told me
that I could go underneath the aircraft, climb up the
drop down stairs, and grab a seat behind the cockpit. Nobody else
on board the aircraft at this time. I pulled myself up into the
area. It was a lot smaller in this aircraft than the previous
two. There were two yellow padded seats behind the
cockpit. One of them
was mine. I assumed the other was for another passenger.
I heard the
pilot instruct a second person to climb on board. He
warned the person to grab the yellow handle for leverage and not the
red one. He came on board and without turning to look at me was
to sit in the cockpit. I thought he was confused so I told him
seat was in back with me.
He said I’m
sorry I thought I was getting flight training in the
right hand seat on this flight. It was my mistake! I
apologized for my
confusion. This was another paying customer but he paid to fly and
to ride. I had learned earlier in the day that for a larger fee you
could actually fly the B-25! That was under pilot supervision of
course. I’m not sure what other restrictions there were.
came on board followed by another volunteer worker from
the Collings foundation. That was it for people in the front of
aircraft. There was a back section of the aircraft where four
passengers could sit. You could not really access nor see the back
section from the front of the aircraft very well. I assumed that
the full complement of passengers. I was wrong. Mary told me
it was only the four of us in front who were on board the aircraft for
Foundation volunteer was seated next to me. He
introduced himself and his name was Bill. He showed me how to deploy
the footrest for my seat. Bill knew that I had flown on the B-17
previously. I told him that this was actually my third flight of
morning. I had also flown the B-24 earlier. I explained to
him that I
wanted to fly on all three to make a comparison of what it was like to
fly on them. Bill asked me if I was a pilot. I told him that
not. He expressed real shock in that. He said, “So you’re
interested in airplanes?” Yes, I guess that sums it up.
learned that the person in the right hand seat who was
getting flying instruction was a pilot. His experience though only
covered single engine aircraft. I did not have any fear about a
flying the aircraft I was on. I knew the Collings Foundation pilot
proficient and that he would not allow us to get into any precarious
engines were fired up, Bill pointed to the hearing
protector ear muffs next to my seat. He said you are going to need
them. He also me if I had been given the pre-flight
briefing. I said
that I was on the other aircraft, but not on this one.
He told me
that as soon as the landing gear was up, I was free to
unstrap. I could then crawl through the narrow tunnel under the
cockpit to access the in the nose which is called the “green
said that I could stay there as long as I wanted to. All I needed
was come back to my seat when the landing gear went back down for
landing. Wow, there was so much unsupervised freedom on these
it was amazing.
were started and as they revved up, I could tell that
Bill was right. This would definitely be the loudest of the three
aircraft that I flew on that day. Even with the hearing protectors
was loud. It was cool to get a pilot’s eye view of the runway
came up and Bill signaled that I could unstrap. He held my
camera as I got down to the area in front of the tunnel. The
looked like it was going to be a tight fit. It was advertised at
24 inches but I was not convinced that it was that big. I crawled
on my elbows and knees pushing the camera ahead of me. The floor
plywood and it did not help my sore knee. I gutted it out along
foot length of the tunnel.
relieved when I reached the green house. It was not the narrow
tunnel that bothered me, just the pain from my sore knee. The
greenhouse area of the aircraft was really neat. The top half of
fuselage area that I was in was covered in panes of Plexiglas. It
most amazing view. What was probably more amazing was that I was
only one that had this view. Nobody else would share it on this
flight. I could not see the pilot and co-pilot seated in the
above me and they could not see me. If I looked back down the
all that I could see was Bill’s feet at the end.
In the green
house there was the bomb site for the airplane along
with a pair of machine guns. On the walls of the fuselage were a
instruments. There was what appeared to be an electrical plug
what I could decipher this plug in was used to heat the flight suit of
the occupant in the green house. No heat was needed at the low
which we were flying. At 20,000 feet that would be a different
I could tell
when the student pilot took control. He did really
well, but I could detect some wiggling of the wings. We were not
with the same precision as before. I knew that was the student pilot
getting used to the controls.
main camera was not working, I had to fall back to using my
cell phone camera. A cell phone with a camera was new to
me. Thankfully, I had just upgraded my cell phone a couple of days
before. My old cell phone had died. I guess it was not a very good
for electronics for me.
resolution of the cell phone camera was only 2 mega pixels. I
figured that it would still give me adequate photos for posting on my
website. My main photographic system had failed, but thank
I had a
great view of the engines from my vantage point. I snapped
some photos of the turning propellers and noticed an interesting effect
with the camera. The blades of the propellers became curved lines
stretched across the frame. It must have been some interaction
shutter speed and the speed of the propellers.
I had a
great view of a power plant on a small lake. It was not hard
to imagine Doolittle’s Raiders flying over a similar scene in Japan on
April 18, 1942 and dropping their payload of bombs. The bomb sight
front of me would have no doubt been an integral part of that
the Doolittle Raiders, just the day before my flight,
the co-pilot of Jimmy Doolittle’s aircraft during the raid on Tokyo
took a ride on this very Collings Foundation B-25. His name is
Cole and he is 95 years old now. The Collings foundation gave him
free ride in the right hand seat. He is a retired Lieutenant
flight went on I began to feel more alone in the green house.
What it must have been like for the airmen during the raid on
Tokyo. The people who served our nation during World War II were
an amazing group. They exhibited such courage and bravery. We
thank them every day for the freedom that we enjoy. Far too many
take that freedom for granted.
I was a
little nervous that I would miss the sound of the landing
gear descending. Since I was the only passenger on this flight, I
did not want to screw up. I looked back in the tunnel to see if
motioning for me to come back yet. He was not and his feet were
standing there as they were before. I waited a few minutes and
looked back again. Bill’s feet had not moved.
I noticed at
this point that we were flying over Southern Methodist
University. I could read the school logo in the end zones of the
football stadium. I figured this was close enough to the airport
that I should make my way back down the tunnel. I waited until
feet moved to the side and I made my way back down the
helped me again by holding my camera. I stood up and retook my
could have stayed out of the seat longer, but there
was not any real need for me to do that. I was content with the
and sounds that I had already experienced. I looked up at the
instrument panel and noticed that the indicators for the landing gear
glowed red. That indicated that the landing gear were not in a
locked position. A few seconds elapsed and I was relieved to see
indicators switch to blue.
Bill was back in his seat. I noticed the smell of
hydraulic fluid from where I was sitting. I turned around and
a large hydraulic fluid reservoir directly behind me. It had on it
sight glass so that you could read the fluid level.
knew it we touched down on the runway. This landing also
was fairly gentle. My private flight in a B-25 was over. I call it
private flight, because I was the only on board who did not fly the
plane or work on the plane as a crewman.
that I wore made me fairly warm at this point. I had
expected the aircraft to be much colder. I imagine that the low
ceiling which limited our altitude affected the temperature inside of
down out of his seat and asked the pilot how to open
the hatch in the floor. I don’t think Bill was used to flying on
I asked the
student pilot if he thought flying the B-25 was as great
as he had imagined. He said that it certainly was. He also
his father-in-law flew B-25s in the war and that he would get a real
kick out of the story.
the Collings Foundation people for the experience and
exited the aircraft. Since I was warm I proceeded directly over to
fence to remove my pullover jacket. I exited the gate to rejoin my
patient family. While I was toasty hot in the plane because of my
jacket, my family was freezing their collective butts off.
the flying experiences on the three aircraft, they
certainly were all different. Even with their differences they
some similarities in sights, sounds, and smells.
The aroma of
airplane fuel, hydraulic fluid, and hot rubber made me
miss the days of my youth when I drove a tractor around on our
never would have guessed how close driving the combine and harvesting
corn was to the feeling of flying in a B-24 Liberator.
If I had to
pick a favorite flight out of the day, I guess it would
be the B-24 with all of its harnessed violence. Standing next to
open machine gun emplacement at a few thousand feet is something that
I’ll never forget.
It was so great of Mary to
indulge me in my day of flying
adventures. On the day of our wedding, I told our guests that Mary
the best wife that anyone could have. I still stand by that