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Hayward Executive Airport

2011-May-09 : B-17 'Aluminum Overcast' at Hayward

My First Mission

Steve H.
photo courtsey of Pat P.

As the arrival date of the B-17 crept ever-nearer, I volunteered to assist with crowd control during the weekend event. After a short safety briefing, my fellow volunteers and I were equipped with orange vests and positioned to keep the spectators out of harm’s way.

Attendance was less than expected partially due to the “other” B-17 that had visited the area in advance of the EAA B-17 Aluminum Overcast. Only three flights were scheduled during the two-day event. The fact that it was Mother’s day weekend didn’t help the attendance much, either. Nevertheless, throughout the day, a slow but steady stream of visitors came to see and walk through the plane while it was on display.

After a cold day of ramp duty on Sunday, I was offered a seat on the jump flight from Hayward to Sacramento, since the plane would be repositioned there on Monday morning. The only caveat was that I wouldn’t have a ride home. “Sign me up,” I said. “I’ll find a way home!” Later, I was offered a ride home by Paul (our webmaster); it seems that he had not landed at McClellan AFB before, and he wanted to stick a new pin into his chart that marks the California airports where he has landed.

We arrived at HWD on Monday morning to the typical overcast skies that were fortunately burning off quickly. Four members of Chapter 29 were on this flight. As the pilots went through the pre-flight procedures, we were briefed on the emergency exits and plans by one of the crew members. Once we were buckled up in the web seats near the waist gunner’s positions, they started the engines. One by one, they coughed and belched puffs blue smoke before settling into a low rumble while some 30 gallons of oil warmed-up. Ear plugs were a must!

Shortly after the wheels left the runway, we were given the light needed for us to roam about the aircraft. As we banked away from Hayward and out over the bay, one of the crew members motioned for me to look aft out of the top gun turret. What a view! I quickly made my way to the nose gunner seat. The pilots had negotiated for a routing that took us right up the middle of the bay along with a bay tour before turning towards McClellan. We were treated to a wonderful panoramic view of the San Francisco skyline. I had the fortune of viewing all of this from the nose gunner position.

It was almost surreal looking back from that position and seeing the four round engines and props rumbling along. I can only imagine what went through the minds of those young boys who once piloted these ships into hostile skies. Boys who, upon returning to base, were given a chance to get a bit of shut eye before launching back into the sky for the next mission. The sights, the sounds, and the smells of fuel and gun grease still permeate the interior of the plane. These, in part, serve to enhance the experience and likely still trigger strong memories and emotions within those young (now much older) men who came home after battle.

After landing at McClellan, we thanked the crew for a great flight before embarking on the return flight home. This return flight would mark the ending of a day that will be a treasured part of my aviation experience.

We owe a huge “Thank You” to Pat for her efforts in preparing for and participating in this event. You can be sure that I’ll be volunteering at the next one.

Thanks to all of the volunteers that helped to make this a successful event.

-- Steve Holguin

some of the young volunteers are pictured below

B17 Volunteer B17 Volunteer B17 Volunteer