Today was always going to be a happy day for me, I got to fulfil a dream. What I didn’t count on when I got up this morning was just truly how epic this day was going to be.
Woke up this morning, and the weather was perfect, not to cold but brisk enough. The sky was perfection blue. Fantastic start to Memorial Day weekend. I will post more about memorial day on Monday but for the start of a long weekend, it could not be better.
Today the plan originally was as such. Time to buy a truck. I had an appointment with Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Renton. After seeing them last Saturday night, today was going to be pretty damn awesome. I had a fantastic deal on a truck worked out with them, but for an extra $1k I could get something a little bit better. I was booked in for a new test drive. But lets look back at the truck stuff from last week. I had looked at Ford & Chrysler last week in Renton and looked at some pretty basic trucks. They werent all that flashy but thats not me really. Then it was late, but they were open and about to close in like 45 mins or so, but I stopped in at Lithia, just for the hell of it.
Well I am glad I did! because they had a massive sale on, they were dumping on the discounts and to be honest I didn’t think I could get my dream truck till I got there. When you see an american truck you think, big, 4×4, dual cab. Able to tow a small tank. Well the Chevy and Ford ones I was looking at, were to be honest, basic and not 4×4. I was happy, but i wasn’t in dream country. Fast forward a week of tossing and turning over which Dodge to pick, getting insurance quotes. I was tossing up over two different models and I had to make a decision.
So back to this morning. After getting to Dodge, I was greated like a long lost brother, they were awesome. Was taken out for a test drive, looked after, spoken to like a normal human being and all my questions were answers. In the end.. What did I go with… well here she is!
Its a Dodge Ram 1500 ST Quad Cab. With the Hemi V8! The truck sounds awesome, looks amazing and has everything I have ever wanted. Hell the thing handles like a dream! I love it! A dream come true. I have always wanted a truck and now I truly have one.. well not just yet. You can’t drive out of the lot without insurance and due to the long weekend my insurance agent is away. Great. Which means I can’t pick it up till Tuesday after work. But who cares! Tuesday night I get to pick up the new love of my life!
Now your all thinking… why would today be truly epic if he just picked up a truck. Well that’s not what made it epic. Today’s epicness started a couple of days ago. At an #avgeek tweetup. We got to chatting about planes and all the warbirds and stuff after PFAD and talking about the old bombers flying about the B17s, B24s etc Now I have always wanted to fly in a War Bird. Didn’t matter what, I would take whatever I could of gotten. Now the flights are never cheap, unlike a regular helicopter joy flight a warbird would be close to $500 but I would pay it. But there is one aircraft I would do anything, pay anything for a ride in. A B17.
Then last night, I was checking twitter before bed and I saw a tweet from the Museum of Flight. There was a B17 visiting for Memorial Day weekend. They were out here for Joy Flights. I was like SAY WHAT NOW! This was about 11pm at night, so couldnt call them to find out what was going on. I hit up there website, saw the price, momentarily thought no way, then snapped my head back into it. First thing this morning I would get myself on a flight. I sent them off an email last night hoping for a reply. I got one early this morning. It said “Call this number, if there is space, you can book it with the onsite team”
Around 830am I figured it was early enough. I called, and I hoped. I was prepared to take whatever time, cost or whatever I had to do, to get on that plane. I mean seriously, this was a dream come true. A B-17 offering joy flights in my new home town. I didn’t care about the cost, I didn’t know if I would ever get such an opportunity. Well I was told there was space at 115pm today. I figured I could do it, it would mean leaving right there and then, so I scoffed down the last of my coffee, grabbed a bottle of water and hit the road. I got to dodge early, tied up all the truck stuff and got my cheque from the bank and headed to Boeing Field.
I got to the Field around 12 about 15 mins before I was due to check in. I could not believe how good a day it was, the sky was perfect blue, not a cloud near the field and it was warming up (temp hit 78F when I was on my way home). I was in heaven. There was shiny aircraft everywhere. I checked in and signed all my forms and got chatting with the other guys who were on the flight. I was about the youngest on the flight by not to much but average age was well into their 60s. When the aircraft came in for the flight before mine. My heart stopped.
I had never before seen a real B17 in flight. It was as though I was in a dream. Looking at this marvelous, shining, metal aircraft as its 4 propellor driven engines powered it into the field. I was in love. Could this day get any better, I buy my first truck, ever. A dream come true just there, then a bucket list item ticked off, a dream just waiting to happen.
We watched it take off and that made it all the more harder to focus because it was our turn next. It was at this point we got our safety briefing. No “please refer to the safety card” or any such nonsense. Just down to earth, this is your seat belt, its different to anything else you would of used. Don’t sit here, don’t touch this or that, anything else, stand up whatever you want. Enjoy the flight. They asked for two volunteers, I didn’t get in first, I got in 2nd. After the 30 or so minute flight they came back. I was excited like a little school girl. I couldn’t wait. I was snapping away like crazy, a few videos here and there (and that is RARE for me). When it came time to board, my god!
What we were told then was that the first volunteer had to board first, he was heading directly to the cockpit for his flight. O M G.. DAMMIT! The 2nd volunteer, he would need to wait till right at the end to go to the cockpit, because well, he was going to be there for LANDING!!!!!! I said could it get any better… I think it just did! As we approached the pretty thing, the name of the aircraft really fit. Aluminium Overcast. A shiny, silver, metal object that was gleaming right in front of my eyes! I was happy as larry.
We boarded through the rear crew entry, just aft of the waist gun stations. I took my seat directly opposite the Port (left) 50 calibre gun and we waited to go. There was a bit of an oversight with the amount of people onboard as it had seemed they oversold the flight (no one was bumped though apart from a staff member getting a freebie ride). With buckles done, engines started we set off. The noise was amazing. Like music to my ears.
The takeoff was gentle, barely even noticed we were in the air. About 15 seconds after take off, we had a bit of a course correction and you REALLY felt the rudder movement. It was a floaty thing, you wouldnt think that such a bit of an aircraft would react that way. But it did. It was this surreal, undescribable feeling. I can’t say just how amazing it was. The sights were amazing as we did laps over Renton, Lake Washington and Southern Seattle. We obviously couldn’t stray into the SeaTac flight paths but you could see the most amazing sights.
Above the Radio Operators booth is a top hatch that can be removed. It was. At one point I had my head out in the open. Taking the most amazing photos in the Slip Stream and loving every second of it. Once everyone else had their turn up front, up I went. I managed to get a good deal of time in the nose. The glass nose of the B17 holds the famous Norden Bomb Sight (doesnt work in this version) but the nose has the best view in the house. The view from that seat, looking through the glass bubble down over Lake Washington was worth the $475 alone. I don’t care about the price that sight is burned into my brain.
It was a bit tough getting in and out of the nose, its very cramped and small but well worth the visit as you are even more forward than the pilot is! Amazing feeling. If I had of been on a bomb run over Europe, I could of triggered the bombs to release from that very seat. I came back up from the nose and after more watching the pilots at work and several more photos. It was time to come into land. We pretty much were standing almost to the very touch down point and the landing was SUPER smooth. Once the rear wheel (the B17 is a tail dragger) had touched the ground, we were told it was safe to get up again. This meant we could get some amazing photos during the long long taxi back to the parking bay.
This was a truly epic flight, once we parked up I got more photos (even a new Turkish 737 taking off behind the B17) and got some lovely artistic style photos. While I was purchasing a few momentos (an engraved 50Cal bullet and a B17 spark plug) there was an older Gentleman in full USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) uniform. He had been a crew member on a B17 during the war and he did 30 combat missions and was shot down on a mission to Poland. Unbelievable. Truly magical to meet such a man.
The day had just been truly and utterly epic. I could not believe how amazing that flight had been, how much of a kid I had turned into. I had not leaked the info about the flight to many people, so this is the first time a lot of my friends are finding out about it. Sorry guys… I wanted to keep it a suprise so I could enjoy every second of it. Apparently we had gotten the longest flight by far that day and to be truly honest, I dont think I will ever take a flight that could live up to those 40 or so minutes. Not even a First Class A380 flight for 14 hours could top it. It may be close… but it won’t ever be the same as my ride on the Aluminium Overcast.