Rarified Air

Rarified Air

By Karyn F. King, EAA 1202726

Like a time machine going back to World War II, EAA’s Boeing B-17 Aluminum Overcast this year made its appearance in Washington State’s capital of Olympia. Not only did this rare bird fly in but a few of the legendary pilots of this grand ole lady were present to hop aboard as they had more than 70 years ago. A rare look into the past is quickly fading away as we lose so many of these heroes.

I had the honor and privilege to fly to Olympia with Cascade Warbirds (EAA Warbirds Squadron 2) member Dave Desmon in his Navion as we picked up Dick Nelms from Seattle’s Museum of Flight. Now, I’m not saying Dick belongs in a museum, but he does! At 94, he still volunteers at the museum as a docent describing what very few pilots can convey — how it was to fly 35 B-17 bomber missions and live to tell about it. He (and others at the event) told their stories with humor and grace and answered questions, and related many of the hair-raising experiences he had as a 20-year-old B-17 pilot. Dick speaks about losing hundreds of these magnificent Flying Fortresses, losing many friends.

 If you’ve never seen one of these big warbirds up close, it’s difficult to imagine its four huge radial engines, 74-foot length and 104-foot wingspan. Scary to think of it these days but these men and women thought it their duty and did what they needed to do. Purely inspirational and an honor to have him fly with us to and from the Olympia event honoring these precious times in our history. Dick took the controls of the Navion to fly us roundtrip as if he had flown those missions yesterday.

My mission was to fly with Dave to photograph the B-17 as it flew over Olympia and the capitol building. I managed to capture a few once-in-a-lifetime images. Expert longtime pilots of the B-17 for this event were Capt. Neil Morrison of Port Townsend, Washington, with pilot Tom Ewing, who came all the way from Naples, Florida.

I’ve added a few images that I photographed in 2016 as Cascade Warbirds Commander Ron Morrell flew me in his T-28 as the B-17 graced our Seattle skies.

Photos courtesy of Karyn F. King/PhotosHappen.com

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