SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - History comes to life this weekend at the Shreveport Downtown Regional Airport. Residents will get the opportunity to get up close and personal with a fully functional B-17 bomber. It's shiny, loud and an iconic piece of American history.
Jack Lenox is the only surviving P-38 ACE, and Paul Spears who used to fly in the ball turret located on the belly of the plane.
Life filled the cabin as the 72-year-old plane began to roar and rattle. In no time it soared off the runway and passengers were encouraged to move about from nose to tail.
That meant crawling and sidestepping through some tight spaces.
KSLA News 12's Marie Waxel and photojournalist Scott Pace say the most breathtaking view coming from the front gunner's seat, and for a moment the passengers on board were given the opportunity to reflect on only a fraction of what it was like to be an aviator from our greatest generation.
"When I was sitting down just looking out the window thinking about what it was like, however, many years ago and World War II flying so it was incredible," expressed the 307th Bomb Wing, Operations Group Commander, Col. Robert Burgess. "It's totally different being on the B-17, what a great experience, a great aircraft. Another Boeing product, this is a Boeing B-17, it's a Boeing B-52 so some similarities, but a lot of differences too."
After a mildly bumpy ride over Shreveport, and a bit of a jolt for a landing the passengers and crew were back on solid ground.
"Hate to admit it but I got airsick," said WWII veteran, Paul Spears, but he quickly noted it was better to fly in the morning than the afternoon.
A little hiccup aside, it was a special day for the Spears family.
"He's always told us stories about it, and it was fun," said his son Pat who flew with him.
His father only having one regret, "They wouldn't let me get in the turret, I thought maybe the boys may want to get in the turret," said Spears.
"It was rattling around a little bit, but the thing is old, that plane was built back in the 30s you see, that's a long time ago," expressed Lenox.
After all these years, Lenox says he still prefers the the fighter to a heavy bomber.
"It still makes a lot of noise, I'd rather be in my P-38 it's nice and smooth, two engines, five guns I'm all okay with that you know," he laughed.
The plane, named the "Aluminum Overcast," is flown all over the country from the headquarters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, commonly referred to as the EAA, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
"This B-17 is an integral part of history. They built 12,731 of these and there are about 11 airworthy in the world right now, about 3 or 4 that fly fairly regularly like this one," said B-17 pilot Ken Morris, "Someday it's going to be behind velvet ropes to be seen and not heard."
The B-17 will continue to fly with passengers on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and will likely be heard across Shreveport.
You can view the B-17 from Friday October 27 to Sunday, October 29, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Shreveport Downtown Airport.