By Fred “Crash” Blechman
The B-17 Combat Crewmen and Wingmen international organization recently moved its monthly meeting location to AirFlite, a major fixed base operation at Long Beach Airport.
Started by a small group of former World War II B-17 Flying Fortress pilots and crewmen 29 years ago, the group has had regular meetings in the Los Angeles area at the American Legion Hall in South Gate since 1975. As the membership expanded by word-of-mouth and the organization’s newsletter, military aviation enthusiasts of all descriptions—including former fighter and bomber crewmen from different types of airplanes—joined, so that the organization now boasts over 600 members nationally and internationally. However, the only organized meetings are the monthly meetings in the Los Angeles area.
The no-admission-charge meetings, open to members, guests and walk-ins, are held on the second Sunday of each month, starting at 1 p.m., and generally ending by 3 p.m., and usually have more than 60 attendees, including many wives and ladies. Refreshments are provided for a small voluntary donation, and guest speakers cover a broad spectrum of aviation and historical interest. President Bob Stane, with a long history in the entertainment business, runs a very informal meeting, encouraging humor and audience participation with personal experiences.
Past speakers have included Army Air Corps, USAAF and Air Force fighter and bomber pilots and crewmen, two Israeli Air Force pilots who flew Messerschmitt Me-109s and Spitfires in the early Israel wars, a WWII Hungarian Messerschmitt Me-109 pilot, two Japanese kamikaze pilots, a B-24 pilot that flew in the first Ploesti raid, a Royal Air Force Coastal Command pilot, an RAF bomber navigator, a Navy F4U Corsair pilot, an Air Force F-22 test pilot and even a Titanic salvage explorer. A recent guest speaker was Jimmy Weldon, radio and television personality and motivational speaker, who presented an emotional narration of Dennis Daily’s “Why People Hate America.”
The guest speaker for the April 13 meeting will be Walter D. Ehlers, who earned the Congressional Medal of Honor in the WWII European Theater for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty” three days after D-Day in June 1944.
AirFlite, a subsidiary of Toyota, is an award-winning FBO on a 14-acre complex that includes a 29,000-square-foot corporate hangar, 19 individual hangars, 40 tie-downs and a state-of-the-art fuel farm. In addition to specializing in worldwide corporate aircraft sales, it has a passenger terminal and lounge, a computerized flight planning room, catering, rental cars, courtesy transportation, showers and five executive conference rooms—including the large third floor room overlooking Long Beach Airport where the B-17 CC&W holds its meetings.
AirFlite is located at 3250 AirFlite Way, just south of East Wardlow Road at the west side of the Long Beach Airport, a few minutes from the Cherry Avenue North off ramp of the 405 Freeway, if coming from the south, or the Cherry Ave./Spring St. off ramp if coming from the north. For those that plan to fly in, you can park right at the AirFlite building.
For information about B-17CC&W, call Doug Gross in San Diego at (609) 583-8507. For annual membership ($15, $25 foreign), write B-17 CC&W, c/o 10026 Gem Tree Way, Santee, CA 92071. For more information visit[http:// www.b-17combatcrewmen.org], or email Ken Wright, newsletter editor, at email@example.com. AirFlite can be contacted at (800) 241-3548. For more information, visit [http://www.airflite.toyota.com] or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.