That’s what I remember the most about what my dad said regarding a flight he ‘hitched back from Annapolis to home in San Jose, during a furlough sometime around 1945. He left the plane somewhere in the Midwest and took a troop-train the rest of the way.
The Collings Foundation planes are back this week and have been buzzing around, taunting me with their siren-song, and I finally succumbed to temptation. Last year I was short on money but this year my wife convinced me to go ahead anyhow. We chose the hot-rod B-25 Mitchell. My wife said, “My God, this thing is a jalopy!” It’s small for a bomber, but very strong and fast.
It had a crew of six, Pilot and Co-Pilot, navigator/bombardier, turret gunner/engineer, radio operator/waist gunner, and the tail gunner.
The big Curtis-Wright 18-cylinder radials motors blasted and popped with explosions at startup until they settled into a rythmic roaring-rumble. The exhaust-headers vent right next to the cabin and there is no sound insulation – the whole thing shakes like a mother too. A deadly serious hot-rod jalopy. After a fairly short trip down the runway we were airborn.
With hearing protection like we use at the Shooting Range it was still very loud, but my wife thought it was fun just the same – we sat in the waist by the gun-windows alone, two other guys who were there first got in front with the pilot. I didn’t mind.
The view wasn’t quite as dramatic as from the front but the flight was spine-tinglingly exhilarating and the view from the tail-gunner station was great.
After circling the field and flying north past San Mateo we turned again to the south and followed Skyline ridge back. We then came roaring in over the big rock quarry up by Steven’s Creek Dam – it was like being on a bomb-run!! Yeh, it’s amazing what you can see from 1,000 feet, really…!
We headed down the valley and back to Moffet Field.
Too soon the ride was over.
Damn that was a gas, what a rush! I hear them going by again…
UPDATE: Dad says, “The old Kaiser Magnesium plant was started in the ’40s and had a number of fires/explosions as they were starting up the plant and learning to deal with magnesium and their neighbors — daily news and such for the papers. I do not remember ever seeing their operation as it was WWII “secure.”
Today it’s still secure in that you wouldn’t know half the mountain on the far side was so carved-away – it’s out of sight from any neighboring vantage-point. All you can see is the big octagonal hopper-thing.
OOPS! My bad, the The Wright R-2600 Cyclone had a 14 cylinder supercharged double-stack rotary engine — with pistons the size of dessert-plates, 6-1/4″ or so in diameter, making 1,850-HP and with a top-speed of 275MPH. What an amazing plane, the B-25 Mitchell…