Riding the wings of history

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Peachtree-DeKalb Airport offers historic flight on WW2-era bomber

Some might say flying aboard and touring an EAA B-17G-VE bomber plane built in 1945 is a rare, if not impossible experience.

 For the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA)—a Wisconsin-based company dedicated to promoting the spirit of aviation through plane rides, events and activities—delivering such a flight to the public is a daily mission.

 Through EAA’s B-17 tour at Peachtree DeKalb Airport, World War II enthusiasts, history buffs, pilots and aviation aficionados can ride the skies in the Aluminum Overcast—a 65,500 lb., four-propeller engine United States Army Air Corps plane known as a “flying fortress.”

 “This about history,” said Dennis Rasmussen, tour coordinator. “It’s a flying museum. We travel the country with the plane selling rides. People see a part of history that, today, is not exposed and out there.”

 The Aluminum Overcast was delivered too late to see action in World War II but the plane did spend time as a cargo hauler, aerial mapping platform and pest control plane. In 1978, the plane was purchased by investment group, B-17s Around the World, before it was donated to EAA in 1983.

 Over the course of 10 years, EAA fully restored the plane, adding waist guns, rebuilding the radio, adding a top turret replica and installing a bombsight in the nose of the plane. According to EAA, the plane is one of 12 airworthy B-17s in the world.

 Since its restoration, the Aluminum Overcast has offered  the public rides, tours and more to 10 passengers at a time. Rasmussen said EAA proudly offers free 24-minute flights aboard the Aluminum Overcast to World War II veterans and their families free of charge.

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 “[On Oct. 5], we had a belly-gunner on the plane that has flown 32 missions,” Rasmussen said.

 Pilots Neil Morrison and Mike Hastings said they enjoy the noise and smokiness of flying in a vintage airplane.

 “We enjoy getting out and flying the plane—it’s normally sitting in a museum with velvet ropes around it,” Morrison said. “A lot of people are able to get near it, but not under it and in it. It’s a little noisy, but it’s a beautiful noise.”

 Morrison said the plane carries around 4,000 people per year and offers ground tours to an incalculable amount.

 “Sometimes there will be a line that stretches 150 people and is two hours to get through,” Morrison said. “People are just happy to be around [the plane]. That excites us, that’s why we have it out here.”

 EAA hosted flights aboard the Alumnium Overcast at Peachtree-DeKalb Airport Oct. 6 -7 as part of the airport’s Warbird Weekend. The event will feature rides in P-51s, SBD-5 Dauntless, PT-26, T-34 Mentors and LT-6 Mosquitos as well as dinner with Tuskeegee Airmen, plane displays, veteran meet and greets and more.

 The Aluminum Overcast is scheduled to travel to Columbus, Ga., Montgomery, Ala., Raymond, Miss., Monroe and Shreveport, La., Tyler, Texas, Conway, Ariz., and Olive Branch, Miss., before returning to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

 Flight costs range from $409 to $475 depending on advance booking. Ground tour costs begin at $10.

 For more information, visit www.B17.org or call (920) 371-2244.

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