WWII bomber floats over Louisiana farmlands

Published 9:28 am Monday, March 16, 2015

FLOATING: A woman sits in the bombadier’s seat during a flight from Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport to Natchitoches, La.

FLOATING: A woman sits in the bombadier’s seat during a flight from Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport to Natchitoches, La.

It’s not every day you walk into work and your boss asks if you want to ride in a B-17 bomber for three hours, yet there I was driving over the mighty Mississippi River to the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport.

This particular day was windy and overcast, the sky the color of cigar ash. The three other lucky souls with me dutifully waited for the plane to land and drop off its current passengers before scooping us up, and you could hear its hum as it appeared from a thick smoke of clouds like an apparition.

I tried to look cool as I walked across the runway and hopped into the bird, but it’s pretty hard to look like Maverick when you’re wearing wrinkled khakis and grinning like an idiot.

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Once inside the flying fortress I was finally able to reflect on what it must have been like to ride in one of them on a mission in World War II. It was nearly impossible.

Here I was getting updates on the latest NFL free agency from a device with more technology than the entire plane itself while I rested my loafers on the plane walls from my seat on the floor.

I was probably the softest person to ever ride in this plane, and that included the three women who were with me.

The B-17 rumbled down the runway and finally made its graceful entrance into the airways.

Once the plane was in the air, I unbuckled and started snapping pictures from inside.

I balanced across the tight space that connected where we were to the cockpit and stared at the backs of the pilots who were keeping this enormous bird airborne. Crawling under them with the grace of a baby elephant covered in molasses, I climbed my way into the nose.

The nose of a B-17 is like a tiny, floating window. Sitting in the chair after squeezing myself into the seat, I looked out at the vast expanse of rolling Louisiana delta that lay before me. The patches of grass traded colors between green, indigo, and gold, as if the farmland was a perpetual Mardi Gras decoration. The tiny trees and faded wood houses looked like props on a model train set as the bomber glided over the entire scene.

It’s nice to be able to see the world from a different perspective.

It’s also nearly impossible to realize that this majestic monstrosity was once used to drop bombs on our enemies. In this moment, when the only sound comes from the roaring of the engine as we float over the southland, it doesn’t even seem possible that bombs were once dropped from it.

We rode in the air for the better part of an hour, and after fighting nausea toward the end and sliding my way back into the main area of the plane, the B-17 landed in Natchitoches, La.

We climbed back out, but not before I could get one last peak inside and see the remnants of a time past.

The dull gray walls of the plane matched that of the sky.

There will be no bombs dropped on this day.