ATLANTA — The iconic sound of a B-17 Flying Fortress will echo across airports in the southeast as she joins several vintage aircraft during a current public tour by the Commemorative Air Force.
A historic B-17G known as Texas Raiders and fellow World War II-era aircraft are visiting airports to allow the pubic an up close view. Several aircraft are even available for the public to take a living history flight of their own.
Upcoming airport visits include Rome, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; Houston and Tyler, Texas. The squadron of aircraft have recently completed visits in Florida and Atlanta.
“The public is welcome to drive in for our Warbird Expo with three of our vintage World War II aircraft from the CAF on the ground,” Nancy Kwiecien, executive officer of the Commemorative Air Force’s Gulf Coast Wing, said. “We will be doing cockpit tours of the B-17, ground tours of the other aircraft, and public flights.”
‘Texas Raiders’ One of Only Four B-17s Still Flying
The Boeing-built B-17 Texas Raiders is one of only four flight worthy aircraft today. Construction was completed on the aircraft in July 1945, as one of the last built at the Long Beach, California plant.
During World War II, a B-17 was flown with a crew of ten. Powered by four Wright Cyclone nine-cylinder radial engines, the long range heavy bomber was used during every theater of combat.
For Nancy, touring and promotion of the B-17 Flying Fortress is a heartfelt tribute to those who had served aboard them. Her Uncle Ken served aboard a B-17 during a monumental time for the Allies in the European theater.
“I was inspired to join CAF as I have an uncle who was a tail gunner on a B-17 in World War II,” she explained. “He flew across the English Channel on D-Day. I am very interested in the history and in the veteran’s stories.”
Beginning in June 1943, Allied Command used every surviving B-17 to bomb Hitler’s Europe. These aircraft helped bring a speedy end to the Axis domination across Europe.
“Eight years with the B-17 and I’m still inspired by the sight of her in the air,” Nancy added with a proud smile. “The Texas Raiders is gorgeous in the air and just a beautiful piece of art when she flies.”
A Beech JRB-6 nicknamed Little Raider was constructed in 1947 at the Beechcraft Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas. Two Pratt & Whitney radial engines provide a combined 900 hp.
The aircraft served in the U.S. Army Air Force and the Navy during the Second World War. The Beech model 18 was designated as a C-45 Expeditor and a AT-7 Navigator by the Army Air Force. The Navy gave it several names, including the UC-45J Navigator.
Another aircraft touring with the B-17 is the North American SNJ-5. The tandem-seat trainer was known as The Pilot Maker, and prepared new aviators for air combat in the skies over Europe and the Pacific.
The SNJ is the Navy variant of the Army’s T-6 Texan or Europe’s Harvard. The aircraft is also a popular face at air shows around the globe.
CAF Gulf Coast Wing 2021 Tour:
Rome, GA: Richard Russell Regional Airport – May 28-31
Mobile, AL: Mobile Downtown Airport – June 1-3
Conroe, TX: Conroe North Houston Regional Airport – June 12 only
Houston, TX: Lone Star Flight Museum Ellington Field – June 19-20
Tyler, TX: Thunder Over Cedar Creek Airshow – July 1-4
(Charles A Atkeison reports on aerospace and technology. Follow his updates via social media @Military_Flight.)