Here is my trip report for the B17 flight to Caldwell, ID. Woke up 5:00 AM PST, 8:00 AM EST ~ EARLY! Took a shower and rolled N6699G out of the hanger.
Fired her up and flew the grueling 5 min flight to Hillsboro, OR.
I Parked in transient parking about 500 ft from the B17.
Apparently I arrived early to something for once in my life since no one was around. Aluminum Overcast http://www.b17.org/ was sitting there by herself as the sun was coming out.
Decided to walk across the road and have a quick bite to eat. By the time I got back around 7:00 AM a group had gathered for the flight including 2 pilots, two mechanics, a mechanics wife and a few of us EAA members.
The EAA http://www.eaa.org/operates this B17 and tours it around the US giving Americans a chance to see a B17 up close and even fly in it. For those that are wondering how I got on this flight, as an EAA105 local chapter member http://www.eaa105.org/ I volunteered to help with one 6 hour tour shift earlier in the week. Volunteer names are put in a hat and a few lucky members get to fly to the next tour destination. To put this into perspective they were charging $400 for a 20 minute local flight.
Time to fire the engines, apparently they do this with everyone out of the aircraft accept for the pilots, for fire safety reasons.
Even at idle the prop wash is strong enough to knock you off your feet. I strapped in at the radio operators station.
I had a small window to look out over the wing. We sat with the engines idling for 15 minutes and then did another 5 minute engine run up.
While taxing around you can hear the pilots hitting the brakes. Actually everyone at the airport can hear the brakes. They squeal like a bull elephant any time they are applied. It was obvious with all four engines at idle that this thing was pulling hard. It crossed my mind that a brake failure during taxi could be a bad thing. Speaking of the motors we were delayed two days from leaving due to mechanical gremlins.
Apparently one magneto was showing a higher than normal rpm drop (250 rpm?). I am not exactly sure if they fixed it or said to heck with it.
After run up it was time for takeoff. All four engines are turning in the same direction so this thing needs a lot of rudder correction. Remember 777’s don’t torque steer. I was thinking ‘oh I will leave my ear plugs out so I can experience the real deal’. About half way to full power I was jamming the provided ear plugs into my ears. It sounded like an old washing machine out of balance but 20X louder. I can’t imagine 50” manifold pressure as we were limited to 41”.
After about 10 minutes the crew let us unbuckle and climb about the aircraft like kids in a candy store. The view was amazing.
The thirteen .50 cal machine guns were fully operational (NOT!) Best seat in the house was the nose where the bomb site and nose turret are located.
To get there you crawl under the pilots and down a short ladder. There is a reasonable amount of room in the nose. The bombardier and nose gunners worked in that part of the plane. The Plexiglas nose is a little intimidating, it looks pretty fragile in non war time operations, pretty much anything hits it and it’s shattered. By the way there is a company that still manufactures the Plexiglas for these things if you need one.
The flight was something like 2.5 hours. I think our true air speed was 165 mph. We climbed over the snowy Cascade mountains. IT GOT COLD in the plane like below freezing! I could also feel the altitude. My GPS showed 9500 ‘ MSL but I noticed we were only about 1500 AGL at times. We picked up some rotor over the mountains that bounced us around pretty good. About the only thing I could hold on to in the nose was the chin gun.
At 9000’ we weaved and bobbed around the clouds staying VFR the entire time. It was an awesome view from the nose. As we approached Caldwell, ID it cleared up and our ground speed picked up. We had to contend with some unusually strong winds at landing. 22 gusting to 35. The pilots said they were REALLY sweating it. I was thinking no big deal I could have landed it but they said absolutely there was no was in HELL they were going up again that day. I guess it was pretty bad. Anyway, made the landing, taxied in to parking. Lots of public, News TV, Civil Air Patrol and police to greet us. A Local EAA member took us to Boise. I had a 11:35AM SW 737 flight back to Portland for $110 but they all said I wouldn’t make it. I said ‘NEVER SAY NEVER!’ I ran to the gate and made the plane. Guess what the gate number was… B17. That 737 was so hot and crowded it felt GREAT to warm up after the cold flight over the mountains!