I waited 20 years to fly in a B-17

When I was a kid, I had maybe three goals in life.

The first goal had something to do with owning a better skateboard than my best friend, thus significantly boosting my attractiveness to the girls in school who never seemed to notice me.

The second goal probably had something to do with crushing my sister’s dreams of marrying Leonardo DiCaprio.

The third, and most important goal in my young mind was to one day fly in a B-17.

I begged and pleaded with my parents to make it happen. I heard nothing but one ( completely legitimate) excuse after another. It’s over. There was no hope.

And then 19 or 20 years later, I receive a random e-mail at work asking if I’d like to go up in a B-17 as a member of the media.

You’re telling me there is a god?

I immediately called the contact who sent the e-mail, perhaps being overly enthusiastic at times while he reassured me that, yes, you are scheduled to go up in a B-17 in a few days. As journalists and editors, we’re trained to act indifferent in all situations. I totally blew it on this assignment.

When the day finally arrived, and I stood there admiring the plane reflecting sunlight as the flight crew rattled off safety tips and interesting historical tidbits, I realized this was actually going to happen.

View from the nose of the aircraft.

We climbed aboard and took our seats in the waist gunner section of the aircraft. A cloud of smoke reeking of gasoline poured into the fuselage as the pilot fired up the first two engines.

As a kid, I would’ve thought the smoke was just the icing on the cake. But as an adult, I couldn’t help but think about the young men—men my age—who risked it all each and every time they boarded the aircraft. Something tells me they weren’t as excited as I was to fly in a B-17.

This was a dream come true for me. Which brings me to my next point. It just might take 20 years to accomplish one of your goals in life. Hey, you never know when you might receive that random e-mail or phone call.

What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do since you were young, but were only recently given the opportunity to do so?

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16 comments

  1. I was still very young when I saw The Battleship Potemkin by Eisenstein, but I was very impressed. So, I wanted to see the Odessa steps and last year I did!!! (check the blog if you are interested 🙂 )

  2. Believe and ask, Eric, always for anything you desire…and yes there is a God/Higher Power/ The Universe/whatever you want to call it by any name…..ask and you will receive…in the right time. That’s the hard part.

    1. You’re right. Patience is always the hard part. I especially like it when you don’t expect one of your goals to happen, and out of nowhere, it does.

  3. Congrats! I’ve managed to cross off several:
    – Certified scuba diver (diabetics aren’t supposed to dive)
    – Riding in the engine of a steam locomotive. Always wanted to do it since I was a wee lad. A bunch of years ago, on a tourist train, my girl surprised me by getting the engine seat. Un.Be.Lievable.

    Next on my list is Pilots License (because I just found out the FAA will grant waivers to diabetics too)

    1. Looks like we have a few things in common, amigo. I was just thinking the other day that I want to get dive certified at some point. And I’ve been interested in obtaining my pilots license for a long time (kind of goes hand in hand with the B-17 thing).

      Do you have any recommendations on what it takes to get dive certified?

      And I have to admit, riding in the engine of a steam locomotive would be awesome.

      1. The only pre-dive requirement was to swim 10 laps in the pool to make sure you could handle yourself in the water.
        After that, the instructor teaches you everything you need to know in the class and water. There is a written test, and then a practical drive where you have to demonstrate diving sill, but nothing too hard.
        You just need to make sure you have the time, and money for flippers, mask and snorkel. They lend you the rest.

        And if you can get recommendations from people you trust that are certified, do that. The instructor makes the experience.

  4. Oh, wow – so cool! What an amazing view from up there too. The one thing I always wanted when I was a kid, was to become a veterinarian. I think the most exciting moment of my life, ever, was receiving a letter of acceptance to vet school! Although that wasn’t recently – it was back in 1992, but the excitement of opening and reading that letter still sticks out in my mind!

  5. Oh. My. God. I am so jealous! Aside from my cloud obsession, I also have an obsession with planes. I would have died if I got to fly in that plane like you did. Agh! Lucky duck 🙂

      1. I remember a few years ago I was actually doing research online to see how I could go about learning to fly a plane. And then I saw how much it cost and that dream was quickly shattered. Now, I don’t have the desire as much to be the one flying it. But I still would love to be in a small plane where I can have a killer view like the one you got! 🙂

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