Fly in a Vintage B-17 Bomber!

Our thanks to historian and author, Joseph D. Kubal for submitting the following article.

By Joseph D. Kubal

As a child, I always relished the thought of flying a bombing run over Nazi Germany during World War II in a B-17 “Flying Fortress.” The imagined target often was the infamous ball bearing factory used to fuel the Nazi war machine. This childhood fantasy was a direct result of watching the popular 12 O’Clock High television series. The series was unusual in its use of actual WWII film footage during many of the episodes. Now, children and adults alike will have the opportunity of a lifetime when a genuine Flying Fortress comes to town this summer.

From August 31st through September 2nd, a Boeing B-17 heavy U.S. bomber will be available for flights and ground tours at the Lewis University Airport, just north of Renwick Road and west of old Route 66 (IL-53) in Romeoville, IL. Five flights will be offered on each of the three days of the Labor Day weekend. Hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Warbird Squadron 4, the “Fly the Fortress” excursions won’t be cheap. The price of a flight will be roughly between $400-$475 per person for a half-hour flight aboard the B-17 Aluminum Overcast, depending on EAA membership and the number of pre-booked and walk-up passengers. However, a portion of the charge will go toward the cost of preserving the historic air machine.
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The Boeing B-17 heavy bomber (see http://www.b17.org/history/history.asp) helped break the backbone of the supply network deep within Nazi Germany and helped turn the tide of WWII. Dubbed the “Flying Fortress,” this type of four-engine bomber often flew without fighter escort. The B-17s typically housed at least a dozen .50 caliber machine guns, located from front to back, and were very capable of defending themselves in aerial combat. B-17s were used heavily in the European campaigns but less frequently in the Pacific Theatre against Japan. These aircraft often were noted to fly even with extensive damage. Only about a dozen of these remarkable planes still in existence are still flight worthy.

The Aluminum Overcast (see http://www.b17.org/history/aluminum_overcast.asp) never saw action in WWII because it was completed and delivered near the war’s end in 1945. The bomber has been restored to include much of its original military equipment. The craft bears the colors of the 398th Bomb Group, which flew hundreds of missions during the worldwide conflict. As reported in its online history page, “Aluminum Overcast commemorates B-17G number 42-102515, which was shot down on its 34th combat mission over Le Manior, France, on August 13, 1944. Veterans of the 398th helped finance the bomber's restoration.”
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A far more affordable experience will be available after the flights end each day. The price of a ground tour of the bomber will be $20 per family (adults and children under 18 years of age), $10 for adults (free admission for veterans and active military personnel). Admission will be free for children under the age of 8 years when accompanied by a paying adult. For reservations and inquiries about the flights and tours, please call 800-359-6217. Additional information can be found on http://wwwb17.org.

So there you have it – the chance to live a dream from years past. See you on the flight deck!

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