Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Day (or two) with the grandson...

Waiting for the ferry that runs from Ft. Fisher to Southport we took a walk up to Battery Buchanan.

A six year old hanging out with old folks in a 36 ft motorhome might go a little nuts.
 The trip from Deaglan's house to where we were staying in Southport was to see the Aluminum Overcast -  A B17G built in 1945 but never dropped a bomb nor fired a round in anger as the war in Europe was over by time she was deployed over seas.
I find that the weight of this weapon (50,000 lbs) compared to the weight of its ordinance (4,000 lbs) to be amazing. Each engine burned so much oil that each one had it's own 37 gallon oil tank.
Isolated from the rest of the crew was the tail gunner who laid on his stomach shoot his weapon. No armor - thin plastic and sheet aluminum. Yes, the wind whistled through this aircraft from all it's openings at 30 degrees below zero.
This is the bombardier's station.  He sat on the stool and was not strapped in. He knelt to use his bombsight.
All of the flight instruments are "working" instruments.  A modern pilot will recognize the GPS nav instruments and some of the other flight instruments which are necessary to make this a certified airworthy craft.  Throttles and yokes are original.
This is the bomb bay and to access the rear of the aircraft the crew had to traverse this thin catwalk.  Only after the aircraft was safely airborne did the bombardier arm his bombs (aircraft were known to crash on take off and they did not want any of the bombs exploding if the plane did indeed crash on take off.)
None of the B-17's were pressurized. At altitudes above 5,000 feet, oxygen was necessary.
To endure the freezing temperatures of high altitude flight the crew relied on their electrically heated flight suits.  These outlets were placed throughout the aircraft so the crew could move about and plug in.
All of the equipment is original to the aircraft as it came off the assembly line.  When the Aluminum Overcast was mothballed many parts were removed from her.  Restorers painstakingly sought out all the original parts and brought them back and installed them. Some, like this radio equipment, are not necessary for flight today.  Radio navigation is no longer used since the inception of GPS. The Aluminum Overcast uses updated nav  and com equipment.
The waist gun positions were 30 caliber machine guns.  The ammunition feed was the wood box in the rear of the photo. Yes, they used wood in parts of the aircraft.  In the lower right corner you can see they used wood for the floor. The ammo feed was 9 linier yards of continuous rounds. To fire continuously, using up all your ammo in one long burst was called giving them the "whole 9 yards". Yeah, that's where we got that phrase. 
The "nose art" on warplanes was inspired by the figureheads that decorated sailing ships which began in the middle ages. 
The ball turret gunner actually sat outside the fuselage, isolated from the rest of the crew.  He was a small and wiry young man - had to be to fit in there. Thin sheets of aluminum was the only protection (if you could call it that). 
Waist gunner's 50 cal had an electric gun sight on the B-17G instead of every 4th or 5th round being a tracer because a tracer bullet has totally different aerodynamic characteristic than the regular lead round.  The tracer rounds in air warfare were really worse than useless because they gave the gunner the wrong information.

Deaglan got to tour a moden CAP (Civil Air Patrol) aircraft which was on display. The Civil Air Patrol had it's beginnings during WWII watching our coasts for enemy intruders and later Nazi submarines. 
The Aluminum Overcast is owned and flown by the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and tours the country as a living history event.  Flights can be booked on the aircraft.
EAA photo.


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