Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its fifth year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

September 1, 2017

I WATCH THEM BUILD A B-17

... after doing a bit of research on the web, i decided to wander back over to urbana to visit the "champaign aviation museum" ...

... i'd become intrigued reading that at the tiny airport near the edge of the city "a b-17 flying fortress bomber is being built" ... as i walked into the hanger i was, to put it mildly, stunned ... taken from an angle i couldn't quite manage, here from their website (hopefully they won't mind) is a picture that gives a good impression of the scale of the museum's project ...
COURTESY CHAMPAIGN AVIATION MUSEUM
... i learned that somewhere around 90% of this aircraft is being built or machined by hand ... if you understand the nature of these machines, since all the parts are designed to be repaired or replaced, when finished this b-17 will qualify as a "repaired" aircraft ...

... up front, i will apologize for not remembering names ... at first i easily kept track, but, after the first hour, i'd met so many friendly people that it became clear to me i should've taken notes ... (anyone reading is in the know, by all means, i will most graciously accept editorial help) ... this gentleman was carefully sanding smooth the edges of a tiny structural member ... he worked on this one piece the entire time i was in the museum ... i asked him, "how many of these do you have to make" ... 

... "oh, dozens and dozens of them"

... they've been working on this aircraft for ten years ...

... rivet holders, ready for "rosie the riveter" ...

... each piece has to be formed exactly as to the design plans ...

... as a teacher it was pure joy to me when i saw this level of concentration ...

... one of the plane's flaps, i think ...

... the framework for a "nacelle," the torpedo-shaped structure that will hang off the front of the wing holding one of the huge radial engines ...

... there are hundreds of volunteers working on this aircraft ... considering that during world war 2 tens of thousands of women were involved in building airplanes, ships, and other machines which had traditionally been considered "men's work," it was nice to see this woman carrying on the tradition of "rosie the riveter" ...

... how i so remember this process from my time in the service ... each piece of aluminum has to be corrosion protected ... here, i believe, the parts have been anodized and are now being coated with zinc-chromate paint ...

... of the tens of thousands of pieces which must be built, inspected, and ultimately assembled into an aircraft that is going soar into the air ...

... every part has to be laboriously reconstructed ...

... this huge box contains the design plans for just the plane's radio room ...

... wright r-2600 "twin cyclone" 14-cylinder radial engine, which can produce over 1,600 horsepower ... fully loaded a b-25 had a horsepower-to-weight ratio of about 1/10 ... my hyundai's is only 1/25 ... !!! ... these airplanes could scream ... !!! ...

... within a few minutes of walking into the hanger paul (?) walked up to me and proceeded to guide me though the entire facility ... after about a half hour or so he apologized, "i've got to leave, i've something scheduled" ... having learned so much from him, and knowing there was so much more to discover, i was sad to see him go ...

... the "norden bombsight" ... using this unbelievably complex analog computer, the bombardier of the plane could take over control of the aircraft and, as was advertised, "from 20,000 feet drop a bomb into a pickle barrel" ... unfortunately, for the hundreds of thousands of people who lived near the targets this never turned out to be true ... when i was a kid the pictures of world war 2 bombers still had this bombsight blacked out ... during the war it was so secret that the bombardiers had orders that in the event of a possible crash landing they were to destroy it even if it meant risking their own lives ... of course, after the war we learned that it was well before pearl harbor the germans had already stolen the plans for the bombsight ...

... the tail gunner's position is almost complete ...

... there are other aircraft at the museum ... this is the cockpit of a c-47 (military variant of the legendary dc-3) ...

... probably first fighting off claustrophobia, from this rather utilitarian metal tube soldiers parachuted into combat in all theatres of world war 2 ...

... designed and built during world war 2 as the douglas aircraft  a-26 invader" (later, rather confusing, given the same nomenclature, b-26, as that of totally different bomber, the martin aircraft "marauder"), this particular plane survived a long career as a fire bomber and is now being stored for eventual restoration ... in my opinion the a-26 is one of the most beautiful twin-engined piston aircraft ever built ...

... as i wandered around meeting the volunteers and learning about the the b-17 they are building, i noticed that at the other side of the hanger the b-25 mitchell bomber was being pre-flighted ...

... it seems they were "taken her up for a little spin" ... after a great deal of preparation the mighty engines burst to life ...

 ... as i waited by the hanger for it to take-off one of the ground crew drove up in a little golf cart and said, "hop in, i'll take you out for a closer look" ... he brought me right to edge of the active taxiway ... i didn't have the proper "super-duper" lens to do justice to the scene, so i decided to see if i could do a bit of "recreating" of my own ...

... i've been to aviation museums all over the world ... every chance i get i enjoy wandering the expansive air & space museum in washington, d.c. ... this trip to ohio, i made yet another visit to the air force's huge museum in dayton ... but, square-foot-for-square-foot, the champaign is hands down the most fascinating aviation museum i have ever visited ... if i lived close-by i would most excitedly sign-up to be a part of it ...