The Liberty Foundation was offering media flights and would I be interested in going? After all, I am a retired journalist.
|A promotional photo of the B-17 "Memphis Belle" in flight. Beautiful.|
But I have a part time job, and the media flights are scheduled to take place during my shift.
I know. This is a weak excuse.
But I have other reasons for backing out.
One of those reasons includes the Liberty Foundation's other B-17, "Liberty Belle", which they brought to the Lexington Airport several years ago, also offering media flights. I tried to hitch a ride on that one, but a mechanical problem with the tail wheel cancelled that experience after the plane taxied down the runway — but never took off.
So I got to taxi in a B-17.
A year or so later, the "Liberty Belle" ended up in flaming pieces in an Illinois cornfield. Uh-oh.
About a year after that, the Collins Foundation brought its own B-17 to the Lexington Airport, along with its B-24, "Witchcraft", which is the only flying Liberator left in the world (despite the fact that more than 18,000 of them were built to bomb Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan into submission). They, too, were offering media rides, and in a moment of serendipity, I was assigned to ride in the B-24.
|Rabbit ears come out of my hat as I prepare for my B-24 experience.|
I think I got a sense of what it must have been like for those boys of the Greatest Generation to fly those impossible missions. It's an eye-opening experience.
But the point I'm making here is that I've already flown in vintage aircraft. I might be at the end of my lucky rope, so why tempt fate any more than I have? After all, these World War II flying museums are more than 70 years old now, and even though I'm sure they get inspected from nose to tail, there's still that vision of an Illinois cornfield in the back of my mind. Metal fatigue, if nothing else, has to be a factor at some point, don't you think? How do you ask an airplane if it's tired?
|Here is my ticket stub for my ride in an ancient Ford Trimotor back in 1972.|
I grabbed my brother, paid our money (I was so excited I even sprung for David's ticket), and took a 20-minute flight that probably didn't get more than several hundred feet above the Lehigh Valley. I have it in my head that we probably didn't go any faster than 100 miles per hour, and it may have been even less than that. We did fly over our house, which gave me a whole new perspective on things. Maybe I was given a God's-eye view of my life, I don't know.
I have since learned that only 199 Ford Trimotors were ever built, and only 18 or so are still in existence. And of that number, only about eight or nine are still flying. Talk about metal fatigue... I'm not particularly afraid to fly, but after so many rides in old airplanes, I think enough is probably enough.
Here is a recent video of the very same Ford Trimotor that I flew in 40 years ago. I know it's the same plane because the tail number, N8407, is identical to the one on my ticket stub. Enjoy the flight: