Published August 2005

Collings B-17 flight thrills former crewman

Snohomish County Business Journal/JOHN WOLCOTT

“Foss” Rodda of Shoreline shows off a photo of himself as a B-17 crew member during World War II. Rodda took a nostalgic flight from Paine Field to Boeing Field last month.

By John Wolcott
SCBJ Editor

The Collings Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom” tour once again brought its historic B-17 and B-24 aircraft to Paine Field as part of its natonal tour.

Restoring, displaying and flying famous “warbirds” is a cause Collings has undertaken for years, greatly supported by business and private donations and fees for civilian flights.

The planes are flown as historical, educational, inspirational and tangible reminders of the personal sacrifices the nation’s military heroes made 60 years ago to keep the world free.

Thousands of people at stops on the planes’ 120-city national circuit pay $8 “tour” fees to climb through the two planes and $400 for the rare opportunity for a 30-minute flight in one of the aircraft. The authentically restored bombers are on tour 10 months a year. At $3,200 per hour just for flying expenses, it takes a lot of donations to keep the planes flying.

The B-17 is one of only eight Flying Fortresses still flying. The B-24 Liberator is the world’s only flying model.

“Next year on our Northwest visit, we’re excited about bringing the planes into a new venue when they visit Everett. They’ll be displayed at the new Future of Flight and Boeing Tour facility that opens in October at Paine Field,” said Ryan Keough, media spokesperson for the Collings Foundation in Stow, Mass.

One of the passengers on a Collings Foundation B-17 “Flying Fortress” flight from Paine Field to Boeing Field last month was Foster “Foss” Rodda of Shoreline. Six decades ago he was a navigator and bombardier aboard a B-17 over Europe. Surviving 25 missions, he returned home with indelible memories of seeing “fighters shooting at us, anti-aircraft fire below us ... bombers blowing up around us and parachutes on fire ... it was horrible.”

Now 85, Rodda’s July flight was memorable, too, he said, but far less frightening, since “no one was shooting at me.”

“When I went overseas, I was with replacement crews for the 88th Bomb Group in England. When I finished my 25 missions, I realized only 14 percent of our group survived to return home. We lost 86 percent of them, so you can see what the attrition rate was,” Rodda said, adding that he was “only 23 at the time and the second oldest crew member ... our pilot, a terrific pilot, was only 20.”

Veterans such as Rodda, a Seattle resident, are able to enjoy those kinds of rare flight opportunities through tax-deductible donations from local businesses, contributed to honor the nation’s veterans.

The Collings Foundation ( offers a special program for businesses who want to sponsor veterans for those flights or contribute to the non-profit foundation’s efforts to keep the planes flying and to find and restore more aircraft.

Back to the top/August 2005 Main Menu


© 2005 The Daily Herald Co., Everett, WA