The B-17 Flying Fortress humming through the sky and its pervasive smell of fuel really brought back the memories for Jim Street, staring out the cockpit windows Tuesday afternoon over Hillsboro.
"Every mission, there was something," Street says.
Through 35 of those missions as a bomber pilot, he and his crew did their job during WWII. He laughs that people called him a "high school dropout." At age 18, a senior in high school, he enlisted.
He remembers the time over Vienna when he lost two of his engines on a bombing run over an oil refinery. They dropped the ball turret and took a long glide over the Alps with the two remaining engines working. After three of the engines were replaced, they were back up in that warbird.
Over the years, his crew met up for reunions. In 1994, he rode in another B-17 during a memorable Portland gathering.
"The entire crew was there," he remembers. "They were like a bunch of kids exploring the plane!"
Now, on the tarmac at Hillsboro Airport, he stops and gazes at the B-17 in front of him, that "beautiful bird." It's the friendships tugging at him.
"They're all dead. I'm the last one," Street explains. He says today's ride through the perfect Oregon winter's sky was a tribute to his comrades.
What: Public rides on B-17 Flying Fortress "Madras Maiden"
Where: Aero Air, 2050 NE 25th Ave., Hillsboro, OR
When: March 4-5, 2017, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
More info: http://www.libertyfoundation.org
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