B-17 lets passengers experience history - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

B-17 lets passengers experience history

CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) - The Experimental Aircraft Association is offering the public and World War II veterans a chance to relive history. On Tuesday and Wednesday, they were taking passengers up in the "Aluminum Overcast," a restored B-17 bomber.

Simply watching its thunderous takeoff was enough to move Lt. Col. Donald Thompson, retired U.S. Air Force. "It choked me up a little bit, and it's going to bring back a lot of memories," said Thompson, just before he stepped on board.

He's logged nearly 1,000 flight hours in B-17s.

"I bombed Berlin. I've been over quite a number of targets."

The one he flew over Europe had an appropriate name.

"It was called the 'Damn Yankee,' because I was in with a bunch of guys from the south, and I was a Yankee."

After a short briefing, we boarded the "Aluminum Overcast" with Thompson, and buckled up. Once in the air, we were free to explore the belly of this beast. The view from its nose turret was breathtaking, and though moving around was difficult, it's easy to see why the B-17 was one of the workhorses of the Allied front. Although this is Thompson's second ride in the "Aluminum Overcast," it still brings back memories of his first mission.

"The only reason I'm here, is the ground sergeant who took care of the airplane, with a piece of plate steel that he put under my seat."

Thompson says that plate saved him when his plane was hit by an enemy flak cannon.

"Another one went between my legs and the instrument panel and out the windshield, and three crew members back in the waist got cut up pretty bad."

Many B-17's took serious beatings, but still brought their crew members back home. After what seems like too short a flight, we landed safe and sound, and Thompson was glad to re-live his memories, both good and bad, one more time.

"When I saw it take off, I kind of lost it for a little bit with the memories, but I didn't lose it up there. I enjoyed it a lot. The only thing that would have been better is if I'd been flying it."

Online Reporter: Brady Smith

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