LAKELAND, Fla. - The deadly crash of a B-17 in Connecticut recently struck a chord with a Polk County man who once had the opportunity to fly it.
Sun ‘N Fun executive Greg Gibson was a passenger on a flight out of Fort Myers back in 2008, when he was asked if he wanted to co-pilot.
He did not have to think twice.
“I was thinking I was really unqualified to be in that seat,” Gibson told FOX 13. “There’s a lot going on. It’s a complex machine. It takes a crew to man it, pilot, co-pilot, navigators, radio operator.”
As an experienced pilot, Gibson had flown all kinds of aircraft, but never a B-17 before.
“It’s graceful, but at the same time, it was kind of lumbering and cumbersome when it takes off. Once it actually takes flight, you clean up the gear, get your engines and props set, and it just hums along,”
After the plane landed, Gibson says it got even better. World War II veterans who were on the plane began trading war stories.
“They actually told stories for an hour or so before they kicked us out,” he says.
At least seven people were killed and six others were injured when the plane went down this week. Federal investigators have yet to determine the cause of the crash.
However, Gibson says age should not be a factor. Planes are inspected annually and have to meet rigorous standards to be allowed to fly.
“Age is not a limiting factor that it might be in, let’s say, in a car,” Gibson explained. “Cars just don’t have to go through the same rigors aircraft do in order to be operational.”
Gibson says planes are inspected annually and have to meet rigorous standards to be allowed to fly.