Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bombers Away

In which we say vroom!

Addendum: Thanks to a Good Sam on Yahoo! Answers I was at last able to get this photo I took from my phone uploaded to Travels West. That's a B-17 coming in for a landing, maybe 50 feet over the railroad tracks at the end of the runway at Bobe Hope Airport.

I was quietly reading the Times this morning at Priscilla's Coffee House on Riverside when I heard the rumble. As I glanced up from Dilbert, a man sitting at the counter leapt up and scampered out the door to look up at the sky. The man's actions confirmed my suspicion that a WWII-era bomber or some other vintage, multi-prop aircraft was flying overhead. There's only one kind of rumble like that.
I followed the man out the door and looked up. At first I couldn't see her, but could only hear her throaty, thunderous drone. Then she came out from behind a tree: four engines along her broad wingspan, a single, high tail fin, a stubby glass bubble in the nose, another in her belly. B-17 Flying Fortress. We watched as the behemoth rumbled majestically southward over Mount Hollywood.

I asked the man if there was an air show somewhere today. He told me that there was a travelling show of three vintage bombers, a B-17 a 24 and a 25, out at Bob Hope Airport.

Fortunately, that's just where I was going. My office is directly across from the airport and I was going there to use our in-house gym. I pedaled over to the airport train depot, where I always cross the railraod tracks, and spoke to a man snapping photos from the platform as the bombers flew in and out. He pointed over to the runway where the twin engine B-25 was idling, getting ready for take-off. I watched her take off, imagining the kind of din that 100 of these must have made as they climbed into the English skies 60-odd years ago on their way to devastate the cities of Berlin and Hamburg, Frankfurt and Dresden. (And it was in 25's, let's not forget, that Jimmy Doolittle and his flyboys gave the Japanese their first black eye in his famed 30 seconds over Tokyo.)

After she took off I turned around just in time to see the magnificent Flying Fortress coming in for a landing. She came in low and slow, perhaps 50 feet off the deck as she swept over Empire Street, which runs past the runway. I confess I felt a pang in my heart seeing her so near, wondering what the brave men flew in her were like, if they were still alive, wondering at what stories they might tell. I felt for a second, too, the awesome terror the people of Germany and Japan must have felt at the sight and the sound of these mighty agents of destruction.


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