Steve Shay
World War II Veteran, retired Boeing worker, and West Seattle resident gets a ride on a B-17 over Seattle, including Alki, one of several types of planes he repaired during the war.

Local WWII Vet returns to a B-17

The West Seattle Herald published a recent story on no-smoking advocate, proud World War II Veteran and longtime West Seattle resident Bob Fox called "Don't Waste Your Money on Cigarettes!" here:

The response was both popular and positive, so we "exploited" Mr. Fox again to join us for a media flight on the B-17 Flying Fortress "Aluminum Overcast" which took off and landed at Boeing Field/King County International Airport May 24.

Fox was an electrician and repaired B-17's, B-24's, B-51's and other aircraft damaged by barrages of German bullets, or "flack," during the war, and then worked for decades at Boeing in a variety of jobs, just a few hundred feet from the Museum of Flight, near where the Aluminum Overcast took off.

The plane was filled with 10 passengers and a crew of three.

"We thought they were big then," said Fox, somewhat cramped, buckled into his flexible fabric seat. "I see they removed two electrical boxes with outlets. It would get so cold at night (during the war) that the crew would plug in their special uniforms to stay warm, like electric blankets. It got colder than blazes in here."

Fox said he appreciated the two groups of metal cables above that manually controlled the plane's tail. they resembled bicycle brake and gear cables.

"Now, with computerization, if the computers go down you can't control the plane," he said with concern in his voice. This B-17, and the other two or so that still fly, are outfitted with computer navigation equipment to meet FAA regulations. Also, Boeing stores a B-17 that is currently being rehabbed.

"I was a fighter pilot in WWII," said crew member, Colonel Bill Holloman, 86, who lives in Kent. He stopped to exchange war stories with Fox.

"We were called the "Red Tails," said St. Louis-born Hollomon, referring to the Tuskegee Airmen. "The common term was the 'negro' or 'colored unit.' In 1941 Roosevelt formed an experimental black squadron called the 99th to see if we had the intelligence to fly an airplane. The war college after WWI did studies that indicated that blacks were incompetent, had smaller brains, and no coordination. I've flown everything, including 707's and 737's. I still fly and have an instructor's rating."

The Aluminum Overcast is still at Boeing through May 31 and is available for the public who want to book a flight.

To book a flight, call 1-800-359-6217 or go to


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