Historic B-17 Comes To McGee-Tyson

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

McGhee-Tyson Airport, Knoxville (WVLT) - During World War II, US Air Force pilots in B-17's were high over Europe on bombing runs. The crew members were in their early 20's back then; today, more than 60 years later, several of these men got back on board for a memorable run.

"Was that a better landing than the last one? My God, That's one of the greatest thrills of my life."

It's been decades, but several World War II vets rode the Aluminum Overcast, a B-17 just like they flew in more than 60 years ago. Time has passed but the memories have not.

"It's like riding a bicycle. You don't forget how to ride a bicycle. You don't forget how to fly one of these things," says C.S. Needham, USAF 38th Bomb Group, Retired.

Getting a chance to fly the B-17 again is priceless to these guys as you see it on their face and in their words.

"What do you think Bill?"

"I'm overwhelmed."

For these guys, today was a wonderful joyride. But 62 years ago it was a mission, a dangerous mission.

Many of these heroes remember being hit by enemy fire over Europe fighting Nazi Germany wondering if they'd make it back.

"Seven of us bailed out and the pilot and co-pilot ended up getting the plane back to England so I spent seven months in a German prison camp," says Bill Tate, USAF 95th Bomb Group, Retired.

"After we landed both engines cut out because we ran out of gas," says David Adcock, USAF 301st Bomb Group, Retired.

"Put my flight suit on when I got hit the first time and a piece went right through, I mean up and through the top," Needham says.

But they also remember the camaraderie.

"We fought together. We ate together. We played together," says Adcock.

And they'll never forget the B-17, because that's the plane they trusted to get them home.

The plane named "Aluminum Overcast" will be at Tac Air to give you a chance to enjoy the ride Friday through Sunday.

The cost is $385 for EAA members and $425 for non-members, to reserve your place call (800) 359-6217.


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