Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A little piece of me died yesterday....

....when I saw this on the news:

This was a WWII-vintage B-17 that crashed yesterday in Illinois.  Fortunately everyone on board escaped, but another piece of history has been lost forever.  

For 20 years beginning in the mid-80's I was very involved with a group known then as the Confederate Air Force.  (It has since changed it's name to the Commemorative Air Force.)  I was a "Ramp Boss" and I led our group of marshallers as we volunteered many of our weekends attending airshows across the country.  We didn't make money at it, but the shows did pay our expenses so it was a relatively cheap hobby.  

After the show planes landed the air traffic controllers would turn them over to us to park on the show ramp, which was a fairly complex undertaking.  It was like a giant jigsaw puzzle....every plane had to go in a certain spot for it to work, space being very tight.  During those years I worked with many hundreds of different planes, probably including this one, and their crews.  Whenever one goes down it really hurts.  I'm not familiar with this plane under this name, but they do change hands and get renamed with some regularity.

If you've never been up close to one, and I mean within just a few feet, with engines running, and heard and felt those huge radial engines turning, and seen the looks on the pilot's faces as if they were saying, "Please get me out of this cramped, scary ramp", then you probably won't understand the affection I have for the planes and their crews and the history they keep alive. 

I'm afraid the world is now one step closer to having none of these beautiful historic aircraft left for us to admire.  And their original WWII crews?  These now-elderly gentlemen are dying at the rate of 1,000 a day.  Of course it's inevitable, but it's still sad.



  1. I'm so glad that everyone escaped with their lives. I love going to airshows but they can be dangerous...

  2. Once upon a time, I went to Geneseo, NY and they had an overflight of 2 P-51s, a C-47,a P-40.....


    six B-17s in formation.

    I will never forget how the surrounding hills seemed to shudder with the sound, and how I felt a little bit cheated, somehow to not have seen and heard the formations heading east from England, numbering in the hundreds at once.

  3. Yeah, that was awful. Way back in 2002 the Doolittle survivors had a convention here in Columbia with scores of World War Two vintage aircraft with the biggest being several B-25 bombers.

    Couldn't afford a ticket to ride in one but I sure enjoyed watching them up close.

  4. Well worth a read.



  5. I read this Fin. Thanks. I didn't realize John Hess was a pilot for them. I've known John for years, and flew with him in the left seat several times on the CAF's B-17 Texas Raiders.