Strapped into the seat of a World War II bomber, Ralph Council took his love of aviation to new heights Thursday.
He listened as the B-17's four powerful engines roared to life and felt every dip and turn and vibration as it circled Van Nuys Airport. The only thing he couldn't enjoy, however, was the view.
Blind since birth, the 44-year-old Woodland Hills resident has had to rely on more down-to-earth means--flying kites and model airplanes and recording airplane sounds--to satisfy his passion for all things airborne. That is until a group sponsoring the vintage war bird's visit to Van Nuys Airport offered Council the gift of flight.
Before takeoff, Council crawled into the aircraft's nose to examine the
bombardier's station, right, letting his fingers help him "see" the contours of the plexiglass bubble. Later, he sat near the waist gunners' positions, above, with a tape recorder in his lap, making an audio record of the flight for his vast collection.
"For some reason I like aircraft sounds," Council said in an interview with The Times in March. "Why do some people watch car racing?"