Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Liberty Belle

Dan loves vintage airplanes. When we first started dating over 16 years ago, he took me to an airshow to see a Boeing B-17 nicknamed "Sentimental Journey". He happily gave me tour of the plane, explaining all of its history and quirks. Years later, Dan and I had the opportunity to fly in a B-17 called the "Nine-O-Nine" sponsored by the Collins Foundation. The flight, which stretched from Torrance, California to Monterey, California was, and remains, a very special memory for each of us.This week, Dan was excited to learn that another B-17 called "The Liberty Belle" (owned and operated by The Liberty Foundation) was coming to Fresno. He wanted to take Kenny to see this piece of history, and give him the opportunity to tour the inside of the plane. Boeing built 12,731 of these aircraft in the from 1936 to 1945. Today, only 14 are currently airworthy. Operating costs are on the expensive side, running approximately $3000 per hour. As a result, it is a real treat to see a B-17 that can actually fly. (Most of the remaining B-17s are part of ground based museum collections.) Kenny took a picture of his Dad posing by the front wheel.

After Dan explained to Kenny how a prop is different from a jet engine, we were allowed inside the plane.

The plane was nicknamed "The Flying Fortress" due to heavy armament to protect the aircraft during raids in World War II. Before the advent of long-range Fighter escorts, B-17s had only their .50 inch (12.7 mm) caliber machine guns to rely on for defense during the bombing runs over Europe. Because the bombers could not maneuver when attacked by fighters, and during their final run they needed to be flown straight and level, individual aircraft struggled to fend off a direct attack. In the picture above you can see two of the defensive guns and a yellow oxygen cylinder.

Because this B-17 is airworthy, all of the instruments in the cockpit actually work.
Dan in the cockpit area explaining the various instruments and how they work to Kenny.

Kenny discovered his favorite part of the plane. He said that it would be "just great" if he could sit in the nose gunner's area if the plane was in the air because"you can see the whole world from here".
And now Dan and Kenny get the surprise. I had booked them on a flight over Fresno. They attended the pilot's briefing then climbed aboard. The Liberty Belle taxis to the main runway.

Take off!

Kenny got his wish as he sits in the nose of the airplane and watches the world go by underneath his feet.

Kenny took this picture of the propellers over the Sierra Mountain Range.

Kenny took this picture of his Dad at the communications desk in the aircraft. I think Dan looks like he's enjoying himself, don't you?
After 45 minutes in the air, Dan and Kenny returned to the Fresno Air Terminal.

When Kenny and Dan exit the plane, both are all smiles. I was glad they both got to enjoy this bit of history together.


kay said...

Gorgeous pictures! Kenny is a far braver soul than I, sitting in that seat!

Yarnhog said...

What a fabulous experience! Ross would have loved that. I don't know if I told you he was an aerospace engineer for 17 years before he became a lawyer, and (like you) is a pilot. And what a great surprise for both of them to get to fly in it! I hope you got lots of bonus points for planning that!

Danielle said...

Wow! They sure looked like they enjoyed themselves.