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Flying Back in Time on a B-17

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Pilots say it handles like a cement truck with two flat tires and no power steering. The B-17 bomber was used a lot during World War II on missions over Europe, and its a lot different than almost any plane you would fly in today, but thats the point. When people around Cedar Rapids go up in it on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the idea is to take a step back in time.

It was an air plane that shaped World War II and changed how planes were designed.

"It taught men and women in aviation, construction and engineering that they could build bigger things, said pilot Rick Fernald.

Fernald was a Vietnam Veteran and also flew during Operation Desert Storm.

His flying fortress is still outfitted with the 50-cal weapons. Now, theyre no longer operational. But 70 years ago, the plane nicknamed the Flying Fortress needed all those guns just to do its job.

Fernald says that nickname came from the idea that the plane was impenetrable. He says in actuality, it wasnt.

"There are only two types of planes in the air, said Fernald. Theres fighters and targets. The bomber is a target."

Taking a flight is a reminder of when the world was a lot different. Planes like the B-17 were assembled by the wives, daughters and girlfriends that solders left behind, because most of the men were at war.

"They were in their teens. 18, 19, 20, 21 years old. An old guy was 24 years old, said Fernald.

So with the anniversary of the Normandy Landings on June 6th, 2014, Rick says these flights are a lot more than just trips down the runway.

"It gives you a sense of history and hopefully it sparks people to be interested in aviation and want to fly, participate in it, volunteer, said Fernald.

Wide-eyed passengers can learn about how a ball gunner was crammed underneath the airplane.

"That's a different view of the war as opposed to the top gun or the tail gunner, said Fernald.

While learning about just how great the Greatest Generation was.

"They essentially forwent their later childhood years to grow up overnight and perform a mission with heroic results, said Fernald.

But every once in a while, Rick says a visitor knows each nook and cranny just a little bit better. Chances are, theyre a World War II vet who flew on a B-17.

While everyone else is learning something new, theyre thinking about something old.

"A lot of them will revisit in memory of a lost crew member, think about those who should have been here and aren't, said Fernald.

Ground Tours are $10 for an individual and $20 for a family.

Public Flights start at a little more than $400. For full pricing and booking information, click here.
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