Boeing Belles

The latest addition to my office desktop Boeing gallery arrived in the mail today from Hong Kong. Now I have my three favourites, the B-17, B-747, and B-314, in the same 1:200 scale. You can click on any of these to see a larger size.

The detail is pretty good on the new model:

Especially given its size:

This Boeing Belle I painted years ago on one of my flight jackets – a little more eye-catching, I think, what with Rita Hayworth and all. The painting is about 16″x16″ on the back of the jacket and the lettering is done in Boeing’s logo style of the 1940s.

I took that photo of the painting in March so I could have Rita and the Mon TĂȘte Rouge II on the back of my new phone, too, courtesy of Skinit.

Memphis Belle flies again

After writing about B-17s and the 1990 “Memphis Belle” film the other day, I looked at this video once more, remembering that my takeoff from the National Warplane Museum grass strip featured the same wide leftward swing of the B-17’s tail into the wind that’s in the sequence starting at 2:28 – rather exciting when you’re inside the aircraft:

I lamented that the DVD I have, from the following year, is in that old “widescreen, but not – ha ha!” format, where there’s black stripes not only top and bottom but left and right, just as you see when you play the above, so the actual resolution of the video is horribly limited, to put it mildly – maybe one-quarter of full HD quality. It doesn’t look very good on my 42″ set, where it’s reminiscent of those first postage-stamp videos Windows 3.1 could play. But then I noticed in the YouTube recommended video list Memphis Belle – Take Off – Available May 6, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the film was released on Blu-ray just a few months ago. This weekend, I’ll be able to watch it properly for the first time since I saw it in the cinema.

Aviation history, connected

Boeing 747 Rollout 1969-09-30

RA001 on 30 September 1968

I was reading this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the long-overdue restoration of the prototype Boeing 747, shown above on its rollout day – rolling, yes, but without working engines yet – and got to wondering if the Museum of Flight still had “Bomber” Bob Richardson’s B-17F as well.

I found that they do, which pleased me because I once flew in that B-17 in the days leading up to the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York. I was a volunteer and arrived a couple days early, staying in the SUNY Geneseo campus dorms overlooking the NWM field. I got to talking with the museum president, Austin Wadsworth, a couple days before the airshow was to start, and he invited me to join the pre-airshow press flights the following morning. Those flights were to be in two B-17s. I remember my dropped-jaw excitement and exactly what he said as I left: “Get here early.” I needed no extra alarm.

The next morning, I arrived at 6:30am and then proceeded to have the time of my life, flying off the grass airfield in the museum’s B-17G, Fuddy Duddy, up to Buffalo, then swapping between Fuddy Duddy and Bomber Bob’s Kathleen, at that time the only F-model B-17 still flying, as they took groups of reporters up for separate promo flights over Niagara Falls. By the time we returned to Geneseo six or so hours later, I had a grin on my face that lasted for weeks – one that returns as I type this.

When we flew back to Geneseo in the afternoon, I took this photograph from the bombardier’s position in the nose of Kathleen shortly after takeoff as we banked away from Lake Erie:

Departing Buffalo, at about 800 feet

Richardson had stopped in Geneseo to be at the airshow with Kathleen on his way back to Seattle from the UK after participating in the shooting of David Puttnam’s “Memphis Belle” film (which was way, way over the top but still entertaining). I remember that he died the year after I flew on his aircraft. I didn’t know him well, but from all accounts he was quite a guy. I’m still grateful that he welcomed me on his aircraft that day with only an hour or so’s notice from Wadsworth.

The airshow that followed was, in a word, spectacular, with a total of six B-17s present along with nearly a hundred other mostly WWII-era aircraft. I think it was the largest gathering of B-17s since the production of the “Twelve O’Clock High” film in 1949, and I don’t believe that number has been seen together since, either. Just five B-17s participated in the “Memphis Belle” filming.

I took this shot early on Saturday morning, opening day of the airshow, before too many people spoiled the opportunity. Fuddy Duddy is at the far end, and Kathleen is the only olive drab aircraft:

b17grpf

Six B-17s at the 1988 Wings of Eagles Airshow, Geneseo, New York

The following year, I returned with an 8×10 of my six tails shot and presented it to Wadsworth along with my thanks for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Ah…proof it really happened,” he said with a smile.

That next year, the airshow featured five B-17s, a Consolidated B-24, and the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum’s Avro Lancaster:

I read another pleasant bit of news just now when I searched to verify I was recalling his name correctly: The National Warplane Museum name has returned to Geneseo, with Austin Wadsworth still in the left seat. I figure if anyone could pull off another large flock of B-17s one day, that’s the man right there.

Here’s Bomber Bob Richardson’s B-17F today in the Museum of Flight:

TMOF Boeing B-17F

“Now pay attention, fellas. Step 7 is important.”

"Does this bug you? I'm not touching you."

7. Never annoy the fuze in this manner.

Not really. The actual instruction is “7. Hold arming vane by hub, press it into position.” This illustration is from the WWII US Army Air Force Bombardier’s Information File Armament section, said manual in PDF form at the link.

On the same page, though I think oddly not highlighted in any way, is this sensible advice: “Don’t bump detonator against side of cavity.” I’d’ve probably put it this way:

WARNING: Do not – repeat, do not – bump detonator against anything, you fool!