It’s been our general observation, that folk who have a strong interest for old stuff, be it cars, bikes, trucks etc, often have a general appreciation for a far wider range of things from the past. Sometimes architecture, maybe steam era innovations and engineering, but most definitely on that list is vintage aircraft. So having left Bakersfield on our way North up Highway 99, the sight of a B17 Flying Fortress sat in the sunshine on the edge of a small airfield outside Tulare, was enough to prompt a hasty u-turn at the next intersection.
The ‘Fort’ is a B-17G named ‘Preston’s Pride’ after Colonel Maurice A. Preston, the Captain during operations from November ’42 to October ’44. The plane went on to serve another six month tour of duty from Oct ’44 until the end of WWII with Colonel Lewis E. Lyle at the controls. In 1958, Preston, now a Major General. once again slipped into the cockpit for the planes last flight to Mefford Field in August 1958, where it has since been displayed as a tribute to the local airmen from Tulare County who served during WWII.
While the plane is in pretty good shape for having sat there for sixty plus years, we couldn’t help thinking she was in need of a little TLC. Pigeons roosting in the engine nacelle’s don’t have much respect for the airplane, as you can see on the props. You’ll also notice that the forward turret is missing and has been replaced with a piece of flat perspex. We’ve since learnt that the high fence around it was erected as a result of several vehicles having damaged the plane. Quite how you could fail to see something as big as a B-17 beats me!
Also on the site is a McDonnell Phantom F4-C jet, a survivor from the Vietnam era, also serving as a permanent memorial to servicemen who served and died in that conflict.
Stopping to view these old warbirds was an unexpected treat, but then road tripping in the USA can often throw up surprising sights and scenes that can be far more rewarding that the normal tourist trail stuff, and that’s probably why I like it so much.