Monday, October 06, 2014

Flight to see Collings Foundation B-17G

So yesterday, Stretch came out and we went out to the airport for a flight to Carroll County Airport in Westminster, Maryland. The day was cool and the skies were clear below 8,000 feet, but it was pretty windy early in thew morning. No issues for take-off since the wind was right down the runway, but I took off knowing that it was setting me up for a wicked crosswind landing at Carroll County.
Heck, if that darn Decathalon can fly today, I sure can.

Our flight path took us right over Antietam Battlefield. It looked great from up here, especially with a tailwind pushing us at nearly 120 knots groundspeed.

Here we are at Westminster. We see below us one aircraft--a Diamond--on the taxiway that just landed, one Beechcraft Bonanza taking flight from the runway below us, and one really big one sitting over in the parking area--a B-17G.

So I entered the right-traffic pattern for Runway 34, thankful that I'd heard the plane ahead of me set up for right traffic, the preferred pattern for this field, so that I didn't enter a standard left downwind and look like a total prat in front of all those people down there. (Note to self: pay a bit more attention to unfamiliar airport info when planning flights, you prat.)

As I called my base turn, I then heard over the radio one of the coolest bits of traffic ever: "Westminster traffic, P--51 Mustang inbound long right downwind. I'm looking for the Cessna."

OMG. A P-51 is looking for me? How cool is that! My finger hovered over the radio button and my right hand gripped the throttle a bit tighter, and the words "Fight's on" were on my lips...all I had to do was climb up above him, get on his six, and come down out of the sun, and...Sigh. I turned final and came in for a landing that was interesting due to the crosswind and the weight of a certain passenger known to those who've met him as "not a small guy". I flared, bounced, and came back down on my right main so hard that for a few seconds I was sure that I'd blown a tire. And as I taxied into the parking area, the Mustang came in from behind and made a low knife-edge pass down the runway, his 1,200hp Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 engine clearly audible over my Continental O-300-D, even in my cockpit.

Heck, I shoulda stayed up there. I coulda took him.

Anyway, here's that B-17 some more.

It's the Collings Foundation Boeing B-17G, "Nine-O-Nine"

They were in Easton, Maryland last year when I happened upon them by chance. Their B-24 was there then, too, but it's not here today. Still, any chance to see one of the few flying B-17 and/or P-51s is worth a short flight on a nice day.
Above: Chin turret, with two .50 machine guns. Bombsight visible behind the glass.
Below: 1,200 HP Wright Cyclone Model R-1820-97 engine with Hamilton Standard propeller.
Belly (ball) turret below the aircraft.
Side view of the waist gun and the ball turret below. This aircraft carried thirteen .50 machine guns for defense against enemy fighters. It wasn't enough.
Tail gunner's position. Two more .50s. Note the rather crude sighting system comprised aof a coaxial sight post above the guns and etchings on the glass.
Top turret and left side waist gun. Half of the aircraft's ten-man crew were dedicated gunners for defense. Every other crewman save the pilots also fired guns when needed.
Nine-O-Nine. Long may she fly.

More pics later, both of the B-17 (inside shots) and the P-51. Pity that I didn't get video of a few of the other landings that pilots were making out there before the winds died at around noon. Let's just say that I wasn't the only one making a hash of it with those gusty crosswinds, and watching a few of those alone was worth coming out here for, or would have been if I hadn't been a member of their club.


  1. Great pics! Might have to save my coke bottles and buy me a ride in the P-51.

    1. It's dual-control, and they say that they'll let you fly it.

  2. Nice pics!

    B-17 is awesome.

  3. Great pix! Setting foot in a B-17 is #1 on my bucket list. This year's "Arctic Thunder" included a B-25, but it's not quite the same (to me).

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great pics, and significantly different tail gun position. Is 909 an E model?

    1. Nope. G model. But doing some research on it, I see variations in the design of that position even within the sub-models.

  5. Nice! But will Stretch ever fly with you again?

  6. Cool pics there. I've been to Old Blighty a few times, but not to the Yorkshire Air Museum:
    You have to scroll down a bit.