At age eighteen Frank Betrucci started aviation on a B-17 in WWII. The crew on the B-17 flew out of England and completed 29 missions in Europe. Frank and his crew were successful in all missions, never shot down, but with boundless bullets wedged in the thin sheet metal.
They were very lucky to stay for the most-part safe. “In WWII 12,731 B-17’s were built with about 5,000 gunned down, killing around 50,000 men.” Says Neil Morrison and Ken Morris (pilots Neil from Port Townsend, Washington, Ken from Poplar Grove, Illonis).
The EAA organization in Wisconsin is lucky to own one of the 12 B-17s in flight-condition.
“Almost all of the profits collected go to restoring the plane” Neil said. When the plane is not showing people history and giving veterans like Frank a chance to relive his duty, the B-17 is home in Oshkosh in a cozy hanger, being taken care of by the mechanic crew.
Not knowing what to expect I was shocked to see how large the plane is. My first thought was “What is that little ball on the bottom of the plane?”
Getting onto the plane there was excitement and a reminiscent energy. Loudly the B-17 turned on and the oil warmed up, and we were off!
The minute we were up and flying everyone was excited to walk around and see the rest of the plane. Skeptical of the shakiness, I stayed in my seat and observed the planes internal objects.
Feeling the atmosphere of the plane was a little difficult knowing that just in a few years I might have been forced to man the plane and fight for our country.
Then I saw the top of the ball! What was that ball? A Ball Turret.
To get in this ‘Ball Turret’ you would start in the plane open the top, slide in and place your heels on the foot holder. After this was done, the door would be latched and the ball would be lowered. This was the least deadly placement in the plane, because there is bullet proof glass.
The man in the Ball Turret would be armed with a machine gun, and would be placed in the Turret when the plane took off, and taken out before landing. Make sure next year to visit Centennial Airport and take advantage of this once in a life time opportunity! For more information and ticket pricing please visit: Www.B-17.org