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May 3, 2011 > Into the wild blue yonder

Into the wild blue yonder

By Julie Grabowski
Photos by William Mancebo

Ditch the commercial flights and experience the wild blue yonder in vintage style when the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) Boeing B-17G Bomber wings its way into Hayward. For one weekend only, locals can step back into aviation history with the "Flying Fortress," one of the first American heavy bombers built for World War II.

EAA's Chapter 29 in Hayward is a vintage chapter (Vintage Aircraft Association, VAA) and has hosted the B-17 nicknamed "Aluminum Overcast" for several years. The plane was one of 12,732 of its kind produced between 1935 and 1945 for combat missions, delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 18, 1945. Though it was received too late to fly in the war, it was purchased the next year by the military inventor and used as a cargo hauler, for aerial mapping, pest control and forest dusting. It was donated to EAA in 1983, and after more than 10 years of restoration work made its first national tour in 1994.

The plane travels all around the country with a team of six: two pilots, two mechanics, and two tour directors. Hayward is the third West Coast stop on a 32-city tour that runs through September.

The impressive aircraft is powered by four 1,200 horsepower engines, has a basic weight of 34,000 pounds (its gross wartime weight jumps to 65,500 pounds), a wing span of 103 feet, 9 inches and hold 1,700 gallons of fuel.

All ages are welcome to fly; the plane can carry up to 10 passengers at a time and the flight lasts 20 to 30 minutes. After takeoff, passengers are free to walk around and explore, checking out the Bomb Bay, cockpit, and getting a great view of the Bay Area from the nose section. For those who don't have the wallet or stomach for a flight, walk-through tours of the aircraft will be available.

This fundraising event helps keep the B-17 operational and in the air; a percentage of the proceeds goes to the hosting EAA/VAA Chapter 29 (Hayward) and Chapter 20 (San Carlos). Funds are used to promote interest in aviation for young kids through the Young Eagles program, which offers free monthly plane rides for kids ages 8-17.

The program has recently introduced a $3,000 scholarship for flying lessons for high school students interested in pursuing a pilot's certificate. To be eligible students must be 15 ? to 17 ? years of age, live within 50 miles of the Hayward Executive Airport, and have participated in two Young Eagles Rallies. Upcoming Young Eagle events are May 21, June 25, July 23, August 27, September 24, October 29, and December 3. To learn more visit www.eaa.org/youngeagles.

Those who pay a visit to the B-17 can take home a reminder of their day with a stop at the merchandise trailer which will offer souvenirs such as T-shirts, hats, and key chains. Don't miss the chance to view this historic airplane and take the ride of a lifetime.

Flights cost $465 per person; $425 for EAA members. Walk through tours are $5, or $15 per family (children under 18). Kids under 8 are free with a paying adult; veterans and EAA members receive free admission.

For more information about the B-17 tour, VAA Chapter 29 or Young Eagles program, contact Pat Polehla at (510) 703-1466. You can also learn more by visiting www.vaa29.org and www.b17.org.

B-17 Tour
Friday - Saturday, May 6-8
Flights 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., walk through tours until 5 p.m.
Hayward Executive Airport
Bud Field Aviation
22005 Skywest Drive, Hayward
(510) 703-1466
www.vaa29.org
Cost: $5 walk through tour, $465 for flight

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