If it's summer here, it must be airshow season. This weekend brought the 24th Annual Quad City Air Show, which has grown a lot from its inception. This year was unusual in that the show didn't feature either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds-but we did score individual demo units and parachute teams (the US Navy Leapfrogs and the Canadian Forces Skyhawks). We also had the usual static displays of warbirds and civilian craft, all the military recruiters, and of course the overpriced souvenirs and food stands. The show drew a decent crowd-it was hot but the sky was fairly clear-but the T-Birds and Angels definitely help bring people in.
Next month will see shows in Peoria and Rockford. AirFest Rockford is going to have a great lineup this year and I think I'll head up there to see it.
A few tips-seriously-if you've never been to an airshow:
-Stay hydrated. There usually isn't much shade around airfields and you will sweat. Might want to stick with water as opposed to alcohol. Yeah, water's $3/bottle. Whatcha gonna do, though?
-Find the shade. I recommend if they have a bomber or transport, set up camp under a wing to watch the events. It's always much cooler there-better even than under a tent.
-If you have little ones, leave them at home. Airplanes are noisy, and if your child is sensitive to booms and roars, they'll not like the surroundings. Also the heat can get to them early.
This has been a Public Service Announcement courtesy of Yankeedog.
I've got a few posts' worth of pictures, but I'm going to concentrate today on one of the few flyable examples of one of WWII's most iconic and famous planes-the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The 'Forts, along with the B-24 Liberators and the Lancasters of the Royal Air Force, bombed the bejezus out of Europe and carried the war to Germany.
The example at QCAS was the Commemorative Air Force's B-17G, Sentimental Journey. The plane was named of course for the song popular in the summer of 1944, which you can hear by going here if you so desire.
The Fort is a favorite plane of mine. It was tough, dangerous if handled and fought correctly, yet it had an aerodynamic elegance not seen in the slab-sided Liberator or Lancaster. Boeing built the prototype in 1935 and the plane was in service until 1959 in the USAF (as drone targets) and until 1968 in the Forca Aerea Brasiliana-well into the jet age. Not a bad career record! The B-17 was used by all of the US Forces, the RAF, France, Canada-even the Luftwaffe used a few captured examples.
A view from behind. At this angle, the B-17 can bring 5 .50 caliber machine guns to bear on an enemy plane-roughly equivalent to a fighter plane of the era. The later models like this G carried 14 machine guns-a fair amount of defensive firepower. Still, the daylight raids performed by the USAAF were only really successful when fighters could escort the big birds all the way to their targets.
Personally, I like the look of the 'Fort with no olive drab-just the natural metal finish. Much more stylish. By about 1944, bombers were delivered and flown without camouflage. The Allies had air superiority and the planes could eke out an extra 20 mph or so without the paint!
A shot of the 'office', showing the chin turret installed in the -G and subsequent models. The Sentimental Journey crew looks to have put on ticks for 55 missions-evidently based in the same unit as Yossarian in Catch-22. The nose art is-who else-Betty Grable in her famous pose. That pin-up was probably in nearly every ship, squadron, and tank battalion in the US Armed Forces in World War II. Nose art is starting to come back in vogue in the US Armed Forces after a long absence. The powers-that-be thought that pictures of semi-clad women plastered on our aircraft would be politically incorrect and offensive to our woman warriors. My thought-if a female pilot wants to paint some stud guy on her plane, more power to her! If she can hit and kill what I need hit and killed or drop the beans and bullets where I can get to them when I need them, then I don't give a rat's ass what's on the side of the airplane.
The beauty shot. The CAF crew has done a beautiful job with this plane-not a mark or scratch on the exterior! The people that built this plane would be proud-she's in good hands!
And looking in port side. Here you get a good view of the waist gunner position and the ventral ball turret position. I had a great uncle who had the bad luck to be a ball turret gunner-possibly the most dangerous position on the plane. Being in the ball involved climbing down into the turret and sitting on a bicycle-style seat with your legs pulled up, something of a cross between a baseball catcher's crouch and preparing for a somersault. Quite uncomfortable on a long trip and dangerous because the turret is exposed. It was not retractable, only trainable. If a plane had to belly-land or ditch and the ball-turret gunner couldn't scramble out in time, it was probably a death sentence for that crewman. Later bombers would use remote control for gun turrets, keeping the gunners in the relative safety of the fuselage.
So ends our walk around of the Sentimental Journey. I had the opportunity to actually fly in a B-17 several years ago, in the Collings Foundation's Nine-O-Nine. It wasn't cheap, right around $300 if I recall, but there aren't a lot of these birds still going. The plane ride-priceless! Once airborne, we were able to walk around the craft-up the waist, across the bomb bay, see the cockpit, and crawl into the nose to get a bombardier's eye view of the flight. I actually stuck my head out of the upper hatch and into the slipstream-just like flying an open cockpit plane. The overall feeling is like flying a big, solid, chunk of rock of a plane. This was a plane that would get you home no matter what! And it did for more than a few crews. However, to be fair, we didn't have every flak gun in town trying to knock us down and the Greater Rockford Airport didn't have a flight of Me-109s wanting to shoot us up, either. Great fun and recommended if you have the time and the cash.
What's it like to get this beast moving? It's loud! This video of the Exprimental Aircraft Association's B-17, Aluminum Overcast, shows the start-up process. One can imagine what an airfield with 40 or 50 of these planes must have sounded like around dawn before a mission.
I'll do more on the rest of the planes over the course of the week. You all know me-I can go on forever when it comes to warbirds.