Flights on the B-17 are being offered at the Mid America Air and Transportation Museum in Sioux City, Iowa.
Pete Scholl is a pilot with the Commemorative Air Force which brought one of ten remaining B-17s still flying to Sioux City. Scholl says operating the nearly-70 year old aircraft isn’t easy.
“It was built to perform up at high altitudes, so a lot of times it has very heavy controls down low. That’s fun for us. We get a chance to do it when we’re not being shot at, we’re not wearing big bulky clothing and we’re not way up high,” Scholl says. “It’s kind of a relic of a bygone era…no powered control.”
The B-17 is called “Sentimental Journey” and features a pinup painting on the nose of Betty Grable. In addition to two pilots, a bombardier, a radio operator and five gunners, a B-17 could hold 13 machine guns and a hefty bomb load.
“Five-thousand pounds on a typical mission and up to about 8,000 pounds for a short-range mission,” Scholl says. The guns only had around 600 rounds each, or about a minute’s worth of firing time, so the gunners had to make the most of the limited ammo.
Shelby Bolke, also with the Commemorative Air Force, says she’s honored to travel with “Sentimental Journey” around the country and pay tribute to World War Two veterans.
“The reward is the veterans you get to meet,” Bolke says. “They’re dying at the rate of 1,500 a day so this is not to just honor the flyers, this is to honor that generation.”
While 12,573 B-17s were used in World War Two, only 10 functional planes are left today. Flights on the B-17 will be available for purchase through Sunday at the Mid America Air and Transportation Museum.
Tickets to tour the plane are $10, but a ride on the plane costs $425.
By Woody Gottburg, KSCJ, Sioux City