BZ's Collings Foundation WWII aircraft

Photo Gallery

These are some shots of the Collings Foundation WWII era aircraft taken at Moffett Field in Mountain View, CA. They consist of a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, and a P-51 Mustang. I was situated at times right below their landing approach. It's a real thrill to have them rumbling by no more than 50 ft. directly overhead!

Used a Nikon D200 w/ a 70-300mm VR lens. Shot in shutter priority exposure mode (between 1/160 and 1/320sec), with continuous autofocus. The slower the shutter speed, the more the propellers can be blurred (most people like to see a fuzzy disc instead of sharp props). It's a tough balancing act - go too slow, and the rest of the plane gets blurred too! I found around 1/250sec gave a good balance between the two.
- Bernard Zee

The B-25J Mitchell of the Collings Foundation!

The best time to catch them is on the weekend, when they have lots of flights (when they're in town).

Well, I was at Chino airshow the weekend they were here, so had to try to catch them during the week instead. More of a hit and miss kind of thing then, as they're not having as many flights, and I have no idea what their schedule is.

Head-on view of the the B-17G Flying Fortress.

It's pretty much coming right at me!

Shots like this make the long waits worth it.

A problem with being 'directly' under is...

...not much of a view!

I think planes are like people - I want to be able to see the face in the picture. The 'face' for the plane being the cockpit of course.

This is the B-24J Liberator 'Witchcraft'.

I think it's a great looking plane!

These shots were spread over different days. Had to make an effort before and after work, to swing by to see if anything was flying.

Usually works out to an average of a half hour wait per 10 seconds of photo opportunity! Ah, but I think it's worth it!!

For being the big huge planes that they are, they can be surprisingly quiet on landing approach. If the wind is blowing the other way, you won't hear anything till they are almost right on top of you. The engines are almost idling when they land...

I'm standing more off to the side now, to be better able to get a profile shot.

Standing on a step stool allows me to get some 'over the fence' shots. They are talking about demolishing the Moffett field blimp hanger. I think they should designate it a historic landmark and leave it alone!

I received a great note from Myles Farson, a B-17 pilot in the 447th Bomb Group during WWII. It provided some additional insights into the ball turret gunner position: "The ball turret gunner did not get into the ball until we were over the English Channel and at an altitude of at least 10,000 feet. He did so by rotating the ball so that the guns were pointed straight down. He would then open the hatch, step in and crunch himself into position looking between his feet as he aimed his guns. He would stay in this position until we had bombed our target and were back over the channel."

"...When bombing a heavily fortified target such as Berlin, he would sometimes get out of the turret. The German fighters did not attack when the flak was heavy. The radio gunner was responsible to see that he got in and out safely, and both were responsible to see that the guns were in position for landing."

"... If the guns were pointed down, they would be the first thing to touch the runway. I think the system was electrical, not hydraulic. If the system malfunctioned, the radio gunner used a hand crank to rotate the ball. We depended a lot on the ball turret gunner. He was the only one that could see the underside of the plane and report any damage that he might observe. Fortunately, we did not encounter any problems with the ball, but we did get a lot of flak damage."

The 447th Bomb Group web site contains riveting testimonials from B-17 combat veterans, along with other great historical information.

Something new this year...

The P-51C mustang!

The early model P-51C has a 'razorback' shape, and is not as famous as the later D models.

Lets see, we did the front, the right, and now... the left view!

Hope I'm not being TOO repetitious... can probably trim another 10 pics from the page. Still have to work on the editing bit!

This is my favorite angle of the B-17.

The P-51 did a high speed pass of the field before landing...

The Collings Foundation P-51C has dual controls for 'flight training': $2.2k/half hour, and $3.2k/hr.

Maybe if I win the Lotto!

Some parting close-up shots of the B-17G Flying Fortress.

Till next time!

If you'd like to see some more, I have shots of the Collings Foundation bombers from prior years, including static display pics at: BZ's WWII Bombers Gallery

If you liked these, you might want to check out some other pics I took...
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