Then the engine quit. They had told him to abandon ship if it were to ever happen, but when he looked down, the white-capped mountains of the Northwest looked back up at him. He couldn’t do it.
So he changed his fuel source, something any prudent pilot would do, he said, and flew the rest of the way.
“We had to learn in a hurry,” he said.
Soon after enlisting, he was made a plane commander of the B-17, his favorite plane. He was 20.
He’s had memorable experiences in that plane, too. Once, en route to Cheyenne, Wyo., from Seattle, he and his copilot, Duncan Miller, spotted a cold-front thunder storm above Rock Springs, Wyo.
“I said to my pilot, ‘I wonder what’ll happen if we fly into that thunder storm,” he said.
They entered at 12,000 feet, lightning and hail snapping down. And they lost control and tumbled.
“I didn’t know if I was right-side up or upside down,” he said.
After about 5 minutes, the storm tossed them out at 16,000 feet, his instruments very confused.
“It’s almost like being in a washer machine,” he said. “That was a pretty memorable experience.”
He has also flown the Memphis Bell, the first B-17 to complete 25 missions over Germany, and he has recovered from a “dead man spiral” when he and Duncan fell asleep three days and three nights en route to northern Alaska to maintain the Dew Line, radar defenses from the Russians.
But now he only flies recreationally, though the memories are still strong, he said. If he ever feels sleepy, he just thinks of that “dead man spiral,” he said.
He attributes his living today to Duncan.
Duncan was a religious man and a good person, he said.
Whenever they came close, the Lord intervened for Duncan, he said. Salvation by proximity.
“Just a good guy,” Hunt said.
Before people packed the tarmac for the air fair, Hunt had flown in on his Vultee BT-13 Valiant, another classic World War II era plane.
He will likely donate that plane, too, to the CAF because he knows he cannot take it with him where he is going, he said. So it feels good.
“I feel like I’m doing the right thing for keeping the legacy alive. I feel like I can go to my grave and know I left my footprint,” he said.
He looked out of the hangar at the yellow AT-6 Harvard he donated years ago. A man on the wing was hoisting a boy into the cockpit.
Inside a man with a camera hovered for an autograph. Hunt picked up the marker.<< previous 1 2 3