Thanks all for the kind comments.
Collings will not fly the aircraft for rides unless 6-7 people sign up for a flight (because of their cost-per-hour to fly it). You enter through the bomb bay and 6 people are seated in the waist gun compartment (directly behind the bomb bay) and one person is seated on the floor in the radio compartment directly behind the cockpit. No one other than the pilot & copilot are seated in the cockpit itself. In the waist, there is a narrow ledge on the bomb bay bulkhead (equipped with seat belts) that seats 3 abreast (that's where I sat, nearest to the fuselage where there is a window--best place for video-ing, etc). Three more are seated on the compartment floor below the gun windows--they have really no view out of the windows while seated there. There are usually 4 Collings crew aboard (the 2 pilots, and 1 or 2 others). No one is allowed to unbelt and stand up until the bell rings after takeoff. I don't think you would be able to see much of the takeoff or landing from the cockpit view while seated in the radio compartment. Before boarding, one of the Collings crew gives the passengers a safety briefing.
When the bell rings after takeoff, you are allowed to stand up and wander throughout the aircraft--from stem to stern. You go through the bomb-bay on a narrow catwalk. Do NOT step off of the catwalk onto the bomb bay doors.
They were not designed to hold the weight of a human, and you will break through them and rapidly exit the aircraft (no parachutes are provided!). Once through the bay you'll have to climb up onto the flight deck and are allowed to stand behind the pilots, but not interact with them. To get to the nose (nav station, bomb-sight, nose turret), you have to crawl underneath the flight deck, to the right of the nose wheel. They don't operate the belly ball turret on these rides and you can't get into it. At our height and weight we wouldn't really fit too well anyway (I'm 6'1" and about 190 lbs).
When the bell rings again, you have to return to your "seat" and strap in for landing. The flight is approx. 30 minutes in length (sometimes slightly longer) and costs $425.00 (US) per person. To me it's worth every penny. As a warning I will stress
that you move about the aircraft carefully, especially watching out for your head--there are a lot of sharp objects around that you can easily smack your head into if not careful. Easy to bloody your head. You can lean out of the gun windows, but I wouldn't recommend it. As I said, there are no parachutes and if the plane hit unexpected turbulence you might take a dive out.
As you can see from the video, the gun windows are open and it is quite windy inside. The engine noise is very loud, so if you have sensitive ears or problems with loud noise, take some ear protection along. The flight doesn't go above about 3500 feet in altitude, so there is no problem with "popping" your ears, or breathing. If the weather is cold, take a jacket--the inside of the aircraft is not heated. If it's warm, you can go in short sleeves. I would not recommend sandals or flip-flops (even though in the video you see the young Collings crewmember in them)--rubber sole shoes, boots, or tennis shoes are best. I also recommend visiting every part of the aircraft, which you can do on a flight. The public static- display only allows visitors to go into the waist compartment and exit the bomb-bay--the tail and nose areas are off-limits.
Enjoy the flight--it's an experience you won't soon forget! You can begin to see a little of what the WW2 crews experienced on a mission.
post edited by captn71 - 2012/02/05 12:18:46