Historic aircraft bring big crowds to Fairchild Airport


Peninsula News Network

Port Angeles, WA - For the first time in decades, the skies over the Peninsula echo with the sounds of World War 2, as two legendary aircraft visit Port Angeles to rekindle old memories, and educate a new generation.

The restored Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” and B-24 are part of the “Wings of Freedom” tour, a cross country trip that travels America every summer. Sponsored by the Collings Foundation, the volunteer crew stops at airports all over the country to show off these two classic warbirds, planes that were so key to the Allies’ eventual victory in World War 2.

The bombers had spent the weekend at an airshow in Olympia. Monday morning they were ready to take to air again for the trip north to Port Angeles and their first-ever visit to Fairchild Airport. PNN’s Dennis Bragg was invited to go along with a small group for the “hop” from the capitol city and it truly turned out to be the experience of a lifetime.

Along with Heidi Collee of the Sequim Gazette and Carol Griffith of the Port Angeles Inn, Dennis opted to join local realtor and pilot Dan Gase aboard the B-24. Dan is a former Air Force technician and I felt a little more confident after he looked over the planes. Plus, he was wearing an authentic flight suit and that had to count for something!

Carol was also decked out in authentic, and antique flight gear and was ready for take-off. Strapped in, we quickly climbed to a little less than 2000 feet and headed north.

With occasional glimpses of the B-17, we were free to roam the plane and soak up the history. Most of the equipment is authentic, with just a few concessions like current radios to monitor the busy 21st century skies.

The two most striking images of these planes are their relative openness, with little between you and the ground and yet incredibly tight confines from the gun turrets to the bomb bay. It gives you an entirely new appreciation for the men who not only spent hours and hours in cramped quarters, but placed themselves in harm’s way.

The Collings air crew flies thousands of miles every year, but they still enjoy the sights of the journey.

Dennis managed to crawl down into the “belly of the beast”, the bombardier’s seat with its’ critical overhead view. It’s hard to imagine the courage, and dedication it took to perform in any of the crew positions.

But on this day, our only mission is to enjoy history first-hand, with the authentic and unloaded guns pointing out the beauty of the land they were manufactured to protect.

Soon, Sequim is in sight, and with Dan and Carol having a little too much fun getting into the spirit of the flight its’ time to land.

The B-17 follows, being directed into her own spot on the tarmac, where both are soon swarming with Peninsula residents.

And while younger visitors are there mainly out of curiosity, there are many in the crowd that remember all too well the sacrifices these flying museums represent.

The Wings of Freedom B-17 and B-24 will be on display through Tuesday and will be leaving Fairchild on Wednesday. You can see them just east of the airport terminal.




Vintage bombers arrive in Port Angeles

(Port Angeles, WA) -- The history of World War II has come alive at Fairchild Airport in Port Angeles. The wings of Freedom tour arrived yesterday morning with a B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, two of the Aircraft that helped fight for American freedom in World War II. One of the first visitors to come through the gates at Fairchild Airport to see the B-17 was retired Army Major Lee Embree of Port Angeles, who is credited with the first air to air combat photograph of the Second World War, snapped a picture of a Japanese Zero from his B-17, which flew into Pearl Harbor during the Japanese raid on the American Naval Base on December 7th 1941.Embree will be speaking at the Museum of Flight in Seattle on Saturday at 2 PM when the Wings of Freedom tour makes its way to the Emerald City. Port of Port Angeles Airport Manager Jeff Robb says the vintage bombers will be at Fairchild Airport today from 9 AM to 6:30 PM and again on Wednesday from 9 AM until 1 PM, when the bombers will take off and fly to Bremerton National Airport for a visit on the Kitsap Peninsula.


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