Armed with a pair of pliers and a screwdriver, Wichitan Dick Ayesh stepped out onto the I-beam of an open, malfunctioning bomb bay hatch.
It was November 1944 and his B-17 was 15,000 feet in the air during a bombing run. The plane was in danger of crashing over Germany if he couldn't close the doors.
With smoke filling the cabin, two engines down and a third losing power, and open bomb doors creating drag, Ayesh took 20 minutes to single-handedly crank the doors closed.
In 2005, Ayesh, then 82, received the Distinguished Flying Cross — one of the Air Force's most prestigious awards — for the valor he showed.
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During a ceremony at McConnell Air Force Base, his pilot recalled what happened on that fateful day:
"The bomb doors were malfunctioning, and the plane wouldn't fly," recalled pilot Eugene Jensen of Sun City, Ariz., "Dick stepped out on the I-beam and, with no safety net or nothing, screwed the doors back up."
Ayesh was nominated for the medal in 1944, but he didn't receive it before he left the service in September 1945. He came back to Wichita and worked in the oil and real estate business.
During World War II, Ayesh and his crewmates flew 35 missions. The one over Merseburg, Germany — where he earned his medal — was the 10th mission, part of a bombing raid on an oil factory. The United States lost 56 bombers on that mission.
Question: Although Wichitan Dick Ayesh used just a pair of pliers and a screwdriver to close the bomb bay hatch, he had to use a certain method to get the job done. What was it?
Answer to Wednesday’s question: A twin-engine Braniff Airways plane with 42 passengers from Dallas and Oklahoma City and was the first passenger transport to land Wichita's new $11 million municipal airport.
Check Kansas.com on Friday for the answer to today’s question.