John Pickett Sr.s' B-17 Ride

on the Experimental Aircraft Association's

W.W.II Flying Fortress Bomber

"Aluminum Overcast"

May 6, 2002

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While living in Chicago during most of the 1980's and early 1990's I became interested in the Experimental Aircraft Association which is based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin about 3 hours north west of Chicago.  During a Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride one July I happened to come down the west side of Lake Winnebago to discover that the EAA annual convention "AirVenture" was underway.  I rode down U.S. 41 right beside the EAA property and was flabbergasted at the site 14,000 aircraft parked around Whitman Field.  There was also an air show underway that was beyond description.

What I had stumbled across (although I had read about it in the Chicago papers each year) was the largest general aviation convention in the world.  This convention lasts for 7 days and all types of home built and rebuilt vintage aircraft are flown throughout the day.  On display are over 2,000 home built aircraft along with another 1,000 or so rebuilt vintage aircraft and warbirds from all wars beginning with W.W.I.  At 3:00pm each afternoon there is a 4 hour air show that defies description. We have been to the complete convention on several occasions and like Mardi Gras  "you have to go see it for your self".

During our time in Chicago, the EAA came into possession of a fairly complete B-17 "Flying Fortress" W.W.II bomber.  We actually saw this plane in the EAA museum before it was restored to flying status.   After we returned to Atlanta, the EAA completed the aircraft restoration and began flying it to air shows and began selling rides as well. 

After seeing and touring the B-17 in Lawrenceville on several occasions, I always thought it would be great to be able to take a ride but never quite felt strongly enough to spend that much money for such a short ride.  For Christmas, 2000, my wife and my five children and their families presented me with one of my greatest presents of all time; a ride on the B-17.  They included as a part of the gift the special jacket that is available only to folks who have actually been on a "B-17 Mission".  Unfortunately, the B-17 did not come to the Atlanta area in 2001 so I had to wait another year to get my present.

The pictures below are the ones that I took on the day of the flight.  Our son John and our son-in-law, Chip Bates (Charlotte's husband) both took quite a few pictures.  I will post links to their pictures when I have them.

You can click HERE for views and videos of the B-17.  You can also click HERE to go to the EAA web site.

The flight took off from Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville and did a climbing 270 degree turn to the left that took the plane back over the field at about 1,000 feet.  By the time we were over the field, I was in the bombardier's seat in the nose and you can see the picture of the control tower at Briscoe field in one of my pictures.  The flight then continued north over Lake Lanier and on the return trip the plane completely circled Buford Dam.

I tried to get a good cross section of all parts of the aircraft.  You can see from the shots back to the tail gunner's position that it was a pretty bumpy ride at that low altitude.  It was really cramped inside and you really get an appreciation for the airmen who flew 8 hours or more on a mission.   Much of the time was spent at 20,000 ft in sub zero temperatures and there were many places where you could see right outside.   The cabins were not pressurized or heated.  The flyers all wore heated, leather flying suits, boots and gloves.

Over 12,000 B-17's were built and the "Aluminum Overcast" is one of 6 still flying.

John Pickett, Sr.

Click on the small picture the get the "Big Picture".  click your "back" button to get back to this index.

All of the originally scheduled Saturday flights were cancelled due to weather.  This was early Monday morning about 8:30 am and the Lawrenceville Motorcycle Division was having their picture taken with the B-17

Same shot facing the sun.

Shot of the nose art of the "Aluminum Overcast" ..............................................

Flying on Monday morning had the advantage of no crowds.  Family members could come right out on the run way and walk right up to the plane.

Daughter, Charlotte and Grandson, Bill Bates, Betsy, John Pickett, Jr. and Son-in-law, Chip Bates.  The whole family was scheduled to come watch on Saturday but these were all that was left on Monday morning.

Just before take off.  I was seated in one of the extra seats in the radio room area.  Once the wheels were up, we were allowed to go anywhere on the plane except to the tail gunners areaAmateur radio operators will recognize the BC-348 receiver.  There was also a rack of ARC-5 equipment just to the right.

Shot from the crew chief postiion.  Just in front of the bomb bay.

Looking toward the waist gunners area.  There were 3 seats for the 2 waist gunners and the tail gunner.  Those are real 50 cal. guns with real ammunition but no powder. The gent. seated nearest the camera was not able to get from the radio room to the pilots area because the walkway between the bomb racks was so narrow.  The red headed girl rode her Harley to the event.  Note the small reel of wire in the lower right corner.  This is the long wire antenna reel.

Pilot and co-pilot.  The avionics were all current.  Any original control equipment was just for show.  These pilots swap off every other flight.  The co-pilot's father was on the runway watching and was he proud.  Prior to 9-11 many EAA members got a chance to sit in the pilot's seat in flight but not any more.  All fliers were checked with a metal detector before being allowed in the aircraft.

Looking out from just behind the pilots.

Down under the pilots is the navagator/bombardier area.  Getting here was pretty tricky in that you had to get down on your hands and knees and squeeze under the floor of the pilot compartment.  Crewmen normally entered this area through a hatch in the floor.

Shot from the navagator position.  There were 2 seats in this area.  That is a real Nordon bomb sight in the nose.

I got to the nose area as quickly as I could and as you can see we have just completed the 270 deg. turn and are headed north right over Briscoe field where we took off.

This and the next shot were taken while I was sitting in the bombardier's seat.

There was nothing between me and the plexiglass except the Nordon bomb sight.

Looking out the right waist gunner's window.  These windows were wide open during battle.

Looking out the left waist gunner's window.

The left 50 cal. gun.  The wooden box is original and that is where they kept the ammo.  Now it carries ear plugs and barf bags.

Looking foward from the waist gunners area toward the radio room.  The post is what is holding up the ball turret.  The only way in and out of the turret was through the small hatch on top.  If the turret got stuck after rotating in the vertical plane, the turret gunner could not get out.  Note the white insulated wire running along the left side.  This is a bare wire with ceramic beads over it that ran all the way up to the ARC-5 equipment in the radio room.  It is connected in this picture  to an electrically operated reel that deploys a long wire radio antenna that trails the plane when it is in flight.

A shot from the rear door toward the tail gunner position.  Note the control cables running out in the open.  This was true of all the control cables. 

The plane was bouncing around a lot but this is a telephoto shot of the tail gunners position.  The seat did not even have a back on it.


The rest of these shots are of  Lake Sidney Lanier north of Atlanta.  I think this is the Chattahoochee Yacht Club.

They like to fly over sparsley populated areas.

We actually did a 360 deg. circle of  Buford Dam which backs the Chattahoochee River up to be Lake Lanier.

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