As I waited in anticipation at the ferry terminal in Victoria, BC, the raindrops from the overcast sky above speckled my car’s windshield. My dad was coming from Vancouver for the day and we had BIG plans. I leaned forward in my seat for a better view of sky above. White and grey clouds resembling antique, mottled aluminum threatened to ruin our visit. When Dad was in the car moments later, we planned our day and vowed not to let any rain ruin our time - all in the name of photography.
As we sped to the airport and planned our photographic attack, it was hard not to keep our eyes to the skies. We knew the old plane wouldn’t be flying quite yet, and we knew ground tours were only allowed at specific times. I would have loved to be able to send my dad up for a once-in-a-lifetime flight, but the costly flight was a bit beyond my tiny wallet - a tour of the plane would be better than nothing. We would still be spending time together and that was all that mattered. With another glance up at the sky my dad, the knower-of-all-things aviation and weather-related, wondered that with a “ceiling of 1000 feet broken, and visibility 8 to 10 miles” if the old plane would even go up. We hoped to get some photos of the plane taking off.
The light drizzle of rain had stopped by the time we arrived at the airport, but we weren’t allowed up close just yet. It was about to take-off for its first flight of the day! We made it on time!
We quickly readied our cameras and took a few shots of the plane from the viewing area. After the pilots and guest passengers were settled inside the plane, the ground crew hand-cranked the props a few times to initiate oil flow to the engines. Then in anticipation everyone stood back and waited. It wasn’t too long before the props started to move on their own, picking up speed with every rotation. Oil-rich smoke billowed out from the engines creating a picture-perfect shot. CLICK CLICK CLICK went our cameras and we waited in anticipation for the plane to start taxiing out to the runway. More great photo opportunities were on the horizon!
But just as the old plane started taxiing down the runway the rain started up again – and not like a drizzle as before. Dad did get some footage of the plane taxiing out, but all too soon the rain forced us to the semi-protective overhang of airport building. As rain trickled down our necks as we protected our cameras tucked under our coats, we worried that our fun day was about to be a washout.
We soon learned that tours would, indeed, be available to us later in the afternoon. There was hope! Dismayed but not to be outdone we went back to my house, dried off our gear, and after a cup of tea we headed BACK to the airport. This time the rain had stopped but the clouds still threatened from above. Our determination to get great photos would not be over-shadowed by any finicky weather.
But our adventures weren’t over yet because….
…in order to get through the rest of the plane from nose to tail we would have to inch our way through the bomb bay. It wouldn’t be the 5-foot drop to the ground through the open bomb bay doors should we trip that would be our undoing, but the possibility of getting stuck trying to get through that could be a problem. We would have to walk across a horizontal beam barely 6 inches wide flanked by vertical support beams barely 20 inches apart.
Because we're cool like that.
We continued through the radio room to the main cabin, admired the guns, and then stumbled out the back door. Dad and I took many memory-cherishing photos, but what had us bent over laughing on the runway was the forever-memory of us making it out of the B17 bomb bay alive. Barely.
See? We never let a little rain bother us after all.
For more information about the B17 ‘Aluminum Overcast’ Bomber visit Experimental Aircraft Association