WWII vets revisit their bomber past using old radios

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on March 22, 2010 at 6:08 PM

SEATTLE - On Monday, pilots Hank Hendrickson and Walt Sherrell - both 89 - climbed back into their respective pilot seats for a nostalgic trip using World War II-era communication technology.

Originally from Arkansas, Walt Sherrell was so anxious to get pilot experience in World War II, he didn't wait for the U.S. to join the war. He signed up to fly Spitfires for the British and ended up flying big British Lancaster Bombers before the Americans were finally brought into the war by Pearl Harbor, when he transferred to the U.S. Army Air Corps and served as the pilot of a B-29 bomber in the Pacific Theater.

Hank Hendrickson was driving an airport crash truck before the war and thought it would be pretty cool to become a pilot. WWII would soon give him his chance. He spent the war flying B-17 bombers out of England.

On Monday, they relived their dreams, sitting in their respective pilots seats inside of Boeing's Plant 2 where the B-17 was actually built. Both planes belong to the Museum of Flight and the museum put on a demonstration.

The museum and a team of volunteers is not only restoring the planes, they decided to restore the electronics, including the old WWII military radios inside.

Both Sherrell and Hendrickson re-created the typical conversations from the cockpit as they took their bombers into the "air" without leaving the inside of the hangar.

The radios all used vacuum tubes in those days. There were no transistors and certainly no computer chips. But Dale Thompson, a retired telephone company engineer who's helping drive the restoration of the plane's electronics, says there were enough old components in people's garages and attics to restore the radios.

The radios are being restored to make the planes as accurate as possible. But, like the planes, they may never fly again.

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