The day before the Mojave Experimental Fly In, I arranged for my friend and fellow AirVenture Cup volunteer, Craig Henry, to join me in Phoenix for the weekend’s events. It just so happened that the Collings Foundation had their bomber collection and the P-51B in Phoenix at the Mesa Gateway Airport. Our friend Jamie, who is the media director for the tour, invited us out. So Craig and I got Betty ready to go, and we flew over.
Touring a B-17, B-24, and a B-25 all in one location was pretty neat. There was a steady stream of people around, but not as many as at larger fly-ins. That allowed us time to go slow on our tours and really look at things. Which was pretty neat. Then we got the opportunity of a lifetime. We got to go for a ride in the B-17.
What an experience that was. After takeoff, we got to walk about the airplane. We had time in the waist gunner location, the radio room, got to walk through the bomb bay, watch the pilots doing their thing, got to stand up in the top turret gunner position, and even look through a real live norton bomb sight from the bombardiers station. To say it was a cool ride is an understatement. It was a very humbling experience too. To think that “kids” ten plus years younger than I am now were set loose to go fight for their country in this relatively primitive, by today’s standards, airplane was amazing. Most of them were sent to battle with as little training as the Army Air Corps figured they could get by with.
Betty didn’t get neglected while we were at Mesa Gateway Airport pouring over the bombers. I also got to take Jamie for her first canard ride. She loved it.