ASUS chairman Jonney Shih What’s worse than hiring scantily-clad “booth babes” to show off gadgets at an electronics conference populated mostly by men? Sending lascivious tweets about their appearance from the official company account. Which is precisely what Taiwanese hardware […]
“I’m a minority owner. We just enjoy the ballgame.” The New York Mets organization isn’t exactly known for its exquisite taste in financial partners. This is a franchise, after all, that recently settled a lawsuit stemming from its association with […]
MELBOURNE — Pilots don’t all strive to be fighter top guns. They simply want to fly.
“I had a chance to get into the B-17,” said John “Pat” Ryan of Melbourne. “To me it was a big deal. A lot of people wanted to be in fighters.”
Ryan, 91, who served Army Air Corps, then the Air Force for 30 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel, flew several different aircraft. But it was the B-17, he said, that provided some of the most memorable experiences.
This weekend, Ryan, and the general public will get a chance to see one of those and other planes up close and learn about their role in World War II history. Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom will bring heavy bombers — a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator — and a P-51 Mustang fighter to Melbourne International Airport for ground tours Friday afternoon through Sunday.
“When we come to Melbourne, it will be our 2,609th stop,” said Hunter Chaney, a spokesman for the Collings Foundation. The foundation has been flying and displaying the aircraft for about 23 years.
During that time, B-17 and B-24 have made at least five stops in Melbourne, including one in 2005. The tour, which the foundation calls a flying tribute to veterans, makes stops at more than 100 cities a year.
For an entry fee, visitors will have a chance to tour through the inside of the planes that will be arriving here about 2 p.m. Friday from New Smyrna Beach. The aircraft will remain on display and open for tours through 5 p.m. Sunday at Atlantic Jet Center at the airport.
“If you experience history, if you touch it, feel it, smell it, you will remember it,” Chaney said. “The experience is tangible. What happens with young people is they experience it and then want to learn more.”
Ryan, an artist who has produced several paintings of the B-17, including one that had been on display at Melbourne International, agrees that the history of the wartime aircraft should be shared with younger generations.
Ryan said some crews had only about 200 hours of flight time before being sent to Europe during the war. He was assigned as the navigator with a crew that had only five wartime missions.
“That was a hell of a lot to expect from somebody with limited experience,” he said.
The B-17 and the B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish the mission, according to the Collings Foundation.
Ryan knows firsthand just how tough and forgiving they could be. While navigating his B-17 in formation about 150 miles out over the North Sea, his crew had to struggle to keep their plane in the air.
Ryan warned the pilot of the aircraft closest to his that he was flying too close. The pilot ignored the warning and instead had stern words for Ryan.
The other plane’s wing touched another aircraft, causing critical chain reaction that resulted in several planes suffering damage and one crashing after its crew parachuted out.
Though Ryan went on to fly many different types of planes, he cherishes his experience in the B-17.
“It was the most advanced aircraft of its time,” he said.