The Liberty Gazette
November 24, 2009
November 24, 2009
The View From Up Here
By Mike Ely and Linda Street Ely
Mike: The Commemorative Air Force’s B-17G, named “Texas Raiders,” is based at Houston’s Hobby airport. That aircraft has been undergoing a major restoration project for the past seven and a half years.
The culmination of that project came with Texas Raiders becoming airborne a little before noon on October 14th. I was sitting at an outside patio at my office building across from Hobby as “Raiders” made her first approach to runway 12R and landed uneventfully except maybe for the cheering from those who had labored on her for so long. She subsequently made her first public appearance in many years at the Wings Over Houston Air Show at Ellington Field the last weekend of October.
Linda: On Saturday November 14th, one month to the day after Texas Raiders once again took to the air, the CAF had a potluck lunch and awards celebration for the members who spent thousands of man-hours meticulously restoring the B-17. Afterward, one of the members was to take a re-qualification flight.
Our group gathered round to watch the crew start her up. Engine #3 was first, it’s blue exhaust belching as it coughed to life. Once it was up and running they started engine #4, followed by engine #1, and lastly #2. When all the engines were running, the crew, lead by CAF Col Walt Thompson, finished their ground checks, and with a signal from the aircraft’s commander, Maintenance Officer Col Chuck Conway marshaled the four-engine bomber from the ramp as it lumbered along towards the runway.
There amid the screams of jets and whine from turboprops, when they received clearance from the tower the B-17 took position on runway 12R once again and set its engines to rumbling and roaring. It slowly accelerated down the runway and then eased into the air, turning slightly east for Ellington for some touch-and-go’s.
Mike: We waited around for the B-17’s return watching it make several circuits in the pattern at Ellington about six miles away. Soon, it coursed through the air turning and lining up on runway 17 where it touched down in a perfect wheel landing right in front of us to the whoops and cheers let out by all witnesses.
That evening I received an email from Col Sandy Thompson, Public Information Officer of our CAF Gulf Coast Wing: “Unplanned events sometimes are worth a thousand ads,” she wrote. “This comes from Colonels Everett and Morgan Gibson who attended our awards celebration, then left for a special meeting at Ellington Field.” Dr. Morgan Gibson, noted scientist at NASA Space Center who serves on the Wings Over Houston Executive Committee, along with Colonel Everett, wrote, “After the meeting, we were guests of U.S. Congressmen Pete Olson (Clear Lake and Sugarland districts) and Representative Sam Johnson of the DFW area celebrating 100 years of Military Aviation at Ellington's 147th RW hangar. Just as Representative Olson was beginning his speech and mentioned the historic perspective of military aviation, Texas Raiders made her grand entry with the radials purring perfectly during her low level pass down Ellington's runway. The Congressman was forced to stop his speech and afterwards commented ‘That is what we are talking about!’” At that moment the open hangar doors perfectly framed the B-17. The touch-and-go's caused the Congressmen to pause so all could hear the sounds. How serendipitous.
Mike and Linda can be reached at Texasavi8r@aol.com.