Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster

Flights Aboard WWII Bombers, Fighters Available to Public During ‘Wings of Freedom’ Tour

warbirdPADUCAH, Ky. (7/31/14) — As I sat in the belly of the B-17 World War II bomber nicknamed the 'Nine-O-Nine,' I looked around at the warhorse and admired how well she has been preserved.

The inside of the frontline World War II bomber is all business – no frills – no creature comforts. I thought how striking the difference to a modern commercial jet.

Then the engines crank – one by one – until all four of the big, 1,200 horsepower, Wright Cyclone engines rattle to life. It is as if the lady has awoken. Everything is shaking, you can smell the exhaust of the massive engines, and I can see the tail (horizontal stabilizer) is noticeably vibrating.

This very airplane carried men to war 140 times over Germany and the Axis Powers. This very airplane was an instrument of tremendous destruction. As we began to taxi for takeoff, I thought of the young men, some 18 or 19 years old (perhaps younger), that were on this very airplane as they prepared for takeoff. They were preparing to meet the enemy with their 50 caliber machine guns and 500 pound bombs. The Nine-O-Nine brought all 10 crew members back alive – all 140 missions. However, 10,000 of the young men in similar B-17s never came back. The Eighth Air Force, to which they were attached, lost more B-17 crew members than all the Marines lost in the South Pacific.

I didn’t have to make sure my machine gun was ready and loaded. I didn’t have to worry about German fighters or “flak” from German Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Triple A). My pilot today has been flying this airplane for 16 years with thousands of hours. In WWII, the pilot would have months of flying experience and not many flight hours.

We pulled on the runway and 4,800 horsepower rapidly accelerated the Nine-O-Nine to flying speed, and we were in the air. The inside was noisy and hot. I was thankful that it wasn’t a typical Kentucky July day. The media types on this trip all went to work after takeoff. We were all taking pictures and admiring the big open observation port in the top of the plane (see photos). It was a grand place to take photos of the green Kentucky landscape.

As we lumbered along at 1,500 feet above the ground and 150 knots (165 mph), I once again reflected on the brave aircrew that flew these magnificent machines in battle. A bombing run would be from high altitude of 30,000 feet and 182 miles per hour. The temperature was sometimes 50ºF below zero. Some crew described the smoke from the exploding artillery “flak” as being so thick at times; they felt they could get out and walk on it. They also felt like sitting ducks for the high-speed German fighters attacking from every possible direction. Even with 13 = 50 caliber machine guns, the big B-17 made for an even bigger target while the speedy fighters were a very small target.

Our 30 minute flight around Paducah was unlike the 10-hour missions of WWII. We had no battle damage or wounded crew members. Our approach and landing was remarkably smooth and the Nine-O-Nine brought everyone home intact, again.

The Collins Foundation www.collinsfoundation.com operates these aircraft and they are to be commended for the tremendous job they have done in restoration and operation of these historic machines. It costs $4,000 per hour to fly these magnificent aircraft and you can actually fly aboard one for $450 per person. For the real thrill seeker with some extra cash, the P-51 fighter flight ticket is $2,200 for a 30-minute flight of a lifetime.

The Collins Foundation is a non-profit 501-C3 Educational Foundation.

The aircraft are on its Wings of Freedom Tour and will be in Paducah through Aug. 1, in Bowling Green, Ky. from Aug. 4 through Aug. 6, and in Lexington at Bluegrass Airport at the Aviation Museum of Kentucky Aug. 8 through Aug. 10.

Ron Sanders
SurfKY News

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

button coupons
button classifieds

Most Read This Week

December 16, 2014 10313

Coal Miner Fatally Injured in Underground Mining…

in Top News For All Sites by Dick Brown
December 14, 2014 8954

Muhlenberg Pays Homage to U.S. Armed Forces

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
December 17, 2014 7262

Elderly Couple Found Shot to Death in Muhlenberg

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
December 17, 2014 6651

Three Men Charged with Burglary

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
December 15, 2014 4995

Hopkins County Woman Charged Second Time in Two…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
December 15, 2014 4424

Woman Leads Police on High-Speed Chase in Stolen…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police
December 18, 2014 3954

Cat Scratching over Dog Ownership Escalates

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Amber Averitt, SurfKY News
December 19, 2014 3824

Dawson Springs Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Detective Sean McCance
December 16, 2014 3585

Highway Crews Pre-Treating Roadways for Potential…

in Hopkins News by Keith Todd
December 19, 2014 3559

Armstrong Mine to Layoff 39 by End of Day

in Top News For All Sites by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director

Stories Trending Today

December 19, 2014 3824

Dawson Springs Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Detective Sean McCance
December 19, 2014 3559

Armstrong Mine to Layoff 39 by End of Day

in Top News For All Sites by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
December 19, 2014 3518

Woman Flown to St. Mary's after Two-Car Collision

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Trooper Stu Recke
December 19, 2014 3019

Vehicle Explodes into Flames on Pride Avenue

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Gwen Smith
December 19, 2014 2726

Vehicle Fire Causes Traffic Back-Up on Pennyrile

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis
December 19, 2014 1580

Muhlenberg District Court Fines Handed Down

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
December 19, 2014 1438

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Dec. 19, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
December 19, 2014 1304

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

in Hopkins News by Sheila Hopper
December 19, 2014 1178

KSP Post 2 Trooper Honored for DUI Enforcement…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper S. C. Recke
December 19, 2014 1018

Pennyrile Narcotics Task Force Obtains Multiple…

in Local (Hopkinsville) Top News by Lori Blakeley

SurfKY News Group, Inc.
Corporate Office & Studio
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431
270.452.2727 (phone)
  •  270.452.2249 (fax)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social fbsocial twsocial yt
social gpsocial flrsocial rss