Flying Fortress flight offers reporter a taste of time travel
That was the first thing I learned Monday morning as I launched my 38-year-old self through the narrow entryway, crawling on my hands and knees through the inner passageway of the rickety World War II aircraft.
Though he celebrated his 92nd birthday last month, Pembroke resident Robert Fortnam hopped inside like he's done it hundreds of times before, which he has.
In just under two years, Fortnam was serving on the 305th Bomb Group . 365th Squadron. As fate would have it, the young man who grew up idolizing Charles Lindbergh found himself in the co-pilot's seat of a B-17.
"I looked out the window and saw one of the engines was on fire and Wally was unconscious," he said. "That's when I stepped in to pilot that flight."
"It was a perfect landing," he said.
The entire crew landed safely and eluded capture for two days. On the third day, their luck ran out.
As we hovered over Massachusetts and New Hampshire en route to the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, I ducked down into the rabbit hole and perched on the seat directly below the cockpit.
"You didn't think about it then," he said. "I was just doing my job."
The Colling's Foundation's Wings of Freedom Tour continues today and Wednesday at the Aviation Museum of NH, located at 27 Navigator Road. Admission, which includes tours of all aircraft, is $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12. The exhibit is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon. Flights on the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person. For more information visit www.collingsfoundation.org.
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