Bomber Flight!

Copyright 1999-2009, Scott D. Murdock

25 Nov 2002 - Replaced photos with clearer scans. Updated style and format.
17 May 2009 - Added additional photos.

One of my favorite spots in the Metroplex is Addison Airport, home of the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.  Today, they were playing host to a B-17 and a B-24 operated by the Collings Foundation.  And for a fee, rides were available.

I chose the B-24J.  A workhorse of W.W.II, this is a 4-engine, huge, lumbering beast of an airplane.  This plane was painted as "The Dragon and his Tail," in memory of what I am told was the last B-24 to be scrapped at Kingman AAFld after W.W.II.  The forward right side of the fuselage was adorned by a large painting of a dragon holding a young--and unclothed--lady.  I had to be sure and get a photo of the left (undecorated) side as well so I would have a photo suitable for posting at work!  The Collings Foundation bills this as "The world's only fully restored and flyable Consolidated B-24 Liberator."  They further state it was built in August, 1944, at Consolidated's Fort Worth Plant (Government Owned Aircraft Plant #4).  Adjacent to the former Carswell AFB, this facility still exists as Air Force Plant #4, and is where General Dynamics builds F-16 fighter jets.   

After the paperwork six other passengers and I received our safety briefing.  Stay buckled in during taxi and takeoff; one ring of the bell means its okay to unbuckle and roam the aircraft.  If you crawl up to the nose compartment, don't step on the nose gear doors or you'll fall through.  Be careful of the nose wheel; right after takeoff its still spinning at 120mph.  As you walk through the bomb bay, don't fall off the catwalk.  The bomb bay doors are designed so a falling bomb would punch right through without detonating.  So would a falling person.  Be careful around the waist gunner window openings.  Two rings of the bell means buckle back in for landing.

We made a "hot load" of the aircraft, walking out to meet it on the taxiway as it idled.  A few people crawled out from the bomb bay; then we crawled in.  Made our way back to the seats (actually four seats and three sets of belts on the floor) and strapped in.  Gets nice and noisy when those engines rev up for takeoff!  We lifted off smoothly and while we were still climbing the bell rang.  Gentlemen, you may move about the cabin.  And the gunner stations, and the bomb bay.

The plane was actually kind of crowded with two pilots, seven tourists and a flight engineer on board (this equals the original crew of ten).   I went back to the tail gunner's compartment and checked out the view.  There was plenty of wind whipping around the various openings -- not the airtight sterility of an airliner.  From seeing planes like this on the ground I knew there were openings around turrets and doors, but you really notice this in flight with gusts of wind hitting you from various directions.  I worked my way forward, over and around various bulkheads, and went through the bomb bay to the cockpit.  My, was that breezy and exhilarating!   It's kind of dark in the bomb bay, which had some dummy bombs in it for realism.  But you get some light from around the edges of the bay doors; and they rattle around a bit in the wind.  Kind of a tight squeeze on that catwalk, maybe a foot wide with supports going up from each side.  It's hard to imagine doing this wearing cold weather flying gear, flak vest, and parachute -- while being shot at by AAA and enemy fighters.  Enjoyed the cockpit view from behind the pilots for a few minutes.  I started to crawl down and forward to the nose position; but a closer look at the narrow walkway next to the spinning nose wheel convinced me I didn't need to crawl all the way forward.

We spent most of the flight gathered in the waist gunner area.  This was the most standing room and the best outside viewing.  Look back and see the rudders; look forward and see the wings.  A dummy .50 cal machine gun on each side added to the historical effect and made for good photos.  One area of the plane not available to us was the belly turret; we climbed around it but did not go inside.  The control cables for the elevators and rudders were visible and within reach; whenever I moved about I watched my handholds to be sure I wasn't grabbing a cable!  Ammo boxes and oxygen tanks added to the historical atmosphere.

The icing on this cake was our escort -- an AT-6 from the Cavanaugh Flight Museum took off after we did and flew tight formation off our right wing.  Beautiful sight; the Texan seemed like it was just a few feet away.  The pilots communicated well and held the formation tightly, even on turns.  Very cool.

When the bell rang twice we went back to our seats and buckled in.  Touchdown was pretty smooth, just a minor chirp of the tires.  The interesting thing about that was, because of our relative position and the open windows, we could smell the burnt rubber from the main gear touchdown.  Not something you experience in a 747!  We taxied to a stop, and with engines still running we climbed down and exited through the bomb bay, so the next lucky group could board.

Great experience.  Highly recommended for all the aviation buffs out there.