Large Crowd turns out for Aero Club speaker…..


“I survived.”

That’s how Sun Lakes resident and Sun Lakes Aero Club member

Len Estrin summarized flying 17 missions in World War II as a B-17 ball turret gunner during a talk to the Sun Lakes Aero Club meeting November 17.

One of the largest SLAC crowds ever turned out for the presentation, held in the Sun Lakes Country Club Mirror Room.

Flying out of England, Estrin said his crew flew their first mission in April, 1944.  We bombed marshalling yards, bridges, submarine pens, oil storage tanks and other targets in France and Germany, he said. “Most of our missions lasted up to eight hours, but our longest mission was to bomb a ball bearing factory in Munich, Germany. Our missions usually were escorted by P-51s, except when the B-17 formations flew deep into Germany, which was out of the fighters’ range. “  

Estrin illustrated his presentation with photos taken during and after his bombing missions, along with a map of countries he was flying over in case he needed to bail out and try to find his way back to friendly territory.  He also showed records he kept of each mission. 

One of his prized possessions was a damaged jack line used to communicate with other members of his crew. “This piece saved my life,” he said. “We were getting heavy flak that day, and a piece of the flak hit and damaged the jack line.  Otherwise, it would have hit me.”

After a particularly heavy flak attack, the mechanics counted 200 holes in our aircraft, he said.  That was the end of the line for that B-17, which was retired and used for parts, he added.

Len Estrin (right) and Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC)  president Bob Walch show a
photo of B-17 aircraft like the ones Estrin flew 17 missions in as a belly turret
gunner during World War II.  Estrin described his wartime experiences during a
presentation to SLAC members Nov. 17.


Now in its 17th year, SLAC sponsors programs the third Monday of each month November through April at the Sun Lakes Country Club. The programs are open to all Sun Lakes residents and others interested in aviation.  More information on the club is available from Bob Walch, 895-8869 or Gary Vacin, 298-7017, or at the club’s web site,