WWII B-17 in Jefferson City for National Tour
JEFFERSON CITY - The public gets a peek at a historic aircraft this weekend at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport. A 1945 B-17 "Flying Fortress" flew into town for a stop on it's tour across the country. The Experimental Aircraft Association owns the plane and will have it available for the public to see Friday through Sunday.
"What it gives you is an understanding and an appreciation of what crew members went through during World War II on this type of equipment," said veteran and EAA B-17 pilot Rick Fernalle.
Crews flew in the B-17 during World War II in both the European and Pacific theaters. The aircraft has 13 guns, weighs 65,000 pounds and typically had 10 crew members on-board. The "Flying Fortress" was one of two heavy bombers the United States produced and it typically carried 6,000 pounds of bombs.
"What they used them for was to attack the war-making infrastructure of the enemy hopefully to make the war much shorter," Fernalle said.
Of the more than 12,000 B-17s Boeing Airplane Company produced, nearly 5,000 were shot down in combat. This particular plane is called the "Aluminum Overcast" and is one of only a dozen of the B-17s still flying. The "Aluminum Overcast" was delivered too late to the U.S. Army Air Corps too late to see action. The EAA owns her now and tours the nation on the mission to take veterans and the public on a trip back in time.
"I'm sure if any of them were crew of any kind of a bomber... it would be a great thing for them to go back and remember the flights that they went on in combat," said WWII veteran Francis "Bud" Jones.
Jones flew on more than 100 missions during WWII. While he was the pilot of the P40 and P47, he still recalls the role of the B-17.
"I know some people that flew in those bombers. They to me were the heroes, because they're up there, they're sitting ducks," Jones said.
Fernalle said the environment of the plane was stressful during combat. He knows that because his dad used be a tail gunner of the B-17 during the war.
"It's an emotional connection. It's one that makes you think about what they went through not just my dad but other crew members in that environment," Fernalle said.
Fernalle said his dad was badly injured during combat, but said he recuperated and went on to lead a normal life. He said he thinks of his dad every time he flies on the plane. His dad passed away before the two could fly on the plane together.
The public can come get a ground tour of the plane Friday through Sunday at the Jefferson City Memorial Airport from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The tours are free to active military and veterans. Adults have to pay $10 or families can pay $20. If you would like to take a flight on the B-17 tickets are about $400.
For more information on the B-17, tours and EAA click here.