Ear: B-17

Back in 2007, The Astorian sports writer Gary Henley (pictured) covered the World War II-vintage airplanes belonging to the Collings Foundation (collingsfoundation.org), that flew in to the Astoria Regional Airport for the "Wings of Freedom" tour. 

One of the planes was a B-17 Flying Fortress, the Nine O Nine; Ernest "Mac" McCauley of California was its pilot.

"There's a lot of tricks we have to do," Hunter Chaney, director of marketing for the Collings Foundation told Gary at the time, "in salvaging and replacing parts. … These are the most cared for, loved and coddled planes. They're meant to fly." And Gary did just that. On the B-17. 

Gary flew on the Nine O Nine a second time, over Corvallis in 2018, again with McCauley at the controls. His video of the flight is at bit.ly/GHfly2018. A screen shot is shown; Laurie Assa's photo is inset.

By now, you might have guessed that it was the Nine O Nine, piloted by McCauley, 75, and Michael Foster, 71, that crashed and burned at a Connecticut airport Oct. 3, killing the pilots and five others. An AP story says McCauley had more than 7,000 hours of B-17 flying experience (bit.ly/B17down).

The aircraft, one of the few B-17s left, was brought down by mechanical trouble. "Same plane," Gary noted, that he flew on — twice. "So sad."  

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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