Memphis Belle

Thursday morning I was driving north on Route 63 towards the hamlet of Piffard, New York on my way to visit Abbey of the Genesee. As I scanned the sky ahead of me I noted a familiar silhouette. Perhaps a mile in the distance and just north of the roadway a large aircraft was entering the traffic pattern for Geneseo Airport. The silhouette looked like a Boeing B-17. I immediately pulled off on the shoulder of the highway and followed her as she sailed along just above the treetops. As she turned base I knew this was a Flying Fortress. I turned my car around and began to drive south of Route 63 toward the aerodrome. I looked left and there she was on final moving from my left to the right. I stopped and watched as this big bird thundered through the air and crossed the roadway.

For a brief moment I thought of England and 1943 when sights like this were common in the countryside. I drove quickly up the road to the airfield. My car kicked up a plume of dust as a I sped toward the field. Ahead of me I could see that the war bird had just landed and was taxiing toward the ramp. I pulled into the parking lot and got out of my car. I walked quickly toward her as she taxied closer. My flesh was covered in goose bumps and emotion overcame me as I saw her. I thought of the thousands of airmen who had flown in these Flying Fortresses in World War II. I remembered seeing a plane like this one up close. I remember touring one with my son at this museum.

Yesterday was even more special because as I got closer and her pilots got her parked and stopped the roar of the huge engines, I learned that I was looking at the Memphis Belle. Yes, this is the same plane featured in the movie and it had just arrived from an airfield at Farmington on Long Island. I asked her crew how much fuel she burned and they told me 300 gallons in the first hour and 200 gallons thereafter. I learned that their flight to Geneseo from Long Island had taken 90 minutes. At $6.65 per gallon for AvGas on Long Island that’s expensive.