A salute to old warbirds

A B-24 is beautiful to look at, but a beast to walk through. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

A B-24 is beautiful to look at, but a beast to walk through. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

I did a 10K race and swam yesterday, and felt just fine. In fact, I took four minutes off my last 10K time.

Upon arriving home, The Husband thought it would be fun to visit some old WWII planes at a local airport; a B-17, a B-24 and a P-51 Mustang. The planes are part of The Collings Foundation, a traveling exhibit that goes to local airports, offering rides to the public (for very high, but totally worthwhile prices) and teaching war aviation history to generations who will never know what it was like to literally fly by less than the seat of your pants.

I agreed to go. I like planes and airports and most things aviation-related, though I admit to being less than a stellar air passenger. I don’t get airsick or panicked, but I don’t enjoy flying all that much. It’s more to do with having a control-freak nature. I need to take a lot of reading material with me to take my mind off the fact that my feet are not connected to the ground, and other than the dollhouse-sized restrooms, I have nowhere to go inside that long metal tube.

When we arrived at the airport and paid our entrance fee, our first task was climbing under and inside the B-24. I am not accustomed to ducking under anything, being quite short. But even I had to first crawl under and then inside. It’s cramped, dirty and smells like old engine oil upon older engine oil. Bare minimum, stripped down, hard metal green surfaces, lots of angles and black boxy little letters denoting equipment, storage and dangerous things. There are windows and gunner openings, but it’s still a claustrophobic space to conduct a war. You stoop and step slowly, trying to imagine navigating through the plane while it’s noisy, you’re hot or cold and under fire.

Then came the B-17 adventure.

This time, no crawling under, but up an aluminum ladder. First stop is stooped over in the cockpit, waiting for the people who entered ahead of us to go through. I knew this was not going to end well when I heard a woman’s nervous voice and what I thought were giggles, and her talking about being afraid of falling. What happened next was the sound of panic in the plane, a full-blown frenzy. “I CAN’T DO THIS! I CAN’T MOVE! I CAN’T GO FORWARD! DON’T PUSH ME! I’M AFRAID I’M GOING TO FALL! I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!!!!” The woman ahead of us was mired in panic attack mode, unable to move forward or back. Dropping out of the center of the plane, paratrooper style, was not an option, thanks to the replica bombs in the way. So she left the way she came; backing out, whimpering all the way, with her husband yelling unhelpful things the entire time.

She was wearing green pants and pink sneakers. For some reason, I’ll always remember that. I’ll also remember to thank a service member more often. No matter what branch or which war, whether in miles of desert or a few feet of foxhole, military service is a thankless job.

 

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “A salute to old warbirds

  1. I went to this tour last year at Boca Raton Airport – I had quite the experience getting in the plane too!
    https://pacificparatrooper.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/wings-of-freedom-tour/

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