BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – The B-17 Bomber is one of the most iconic aircrafts that served in WWII. In 2020, of the 12,000 produced, only about 5 are still in flight, according to a release.
One aircraft is in the Tri-Cities for a limited time only. The B-17 Bomber that was built in November of 1944 touched down at Tri-Cities Aviation around 11 a.m. Tuesday morning.
According to the owner and operator of Tri-Cities Aviation, Pamela Phillips, they try to organize events like this on an annual basis.
“We like to get the community involved. We do community outreach to bring them in to try to teach them more about aviation,” said Phillips.
The crew and aircraft are based in Mesa, Arizona but were in Virginia Tuesday morning prior to their arrival in the Tri-Cities. Colonel Mike Pfleger who is a co-pilot of the aircraft has been flying since he was 16-years-old but has been with the Commemorative Air Force for 10 years.
“Flying this aircraft has always been a life dream and it’s wonderful to do so. It gives one a sense of nostalgia and our mission with the commemorative air force is to educate the public and to honor those who flew them in the war and I feel that we do that and it’s a very satisfying feeling,” said Pfleger.
The aircraft will be here through Sunday, September 13th, and will be open to tours in the afternoon and offering up limited flights in the morning hours. Flights will be limited to eight people total, not including the four crew members, and will last 20 minutes in the air. However, take-off and landing could mean up to an hour on the aircraft. Space is limited so you must sign up if you’re interested.
While there is a cost to taking a flight, Pfleger said it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and worth the ride. “It’s a limited opportunity getting rarer by the day so if you can come out and go for a ride, I would do it,” he said.
The mission of the crew is to educate, inspire, and honor. Signatures of veterans who flew these bombers in the war can be seen on the bottom of the aircraft signifying that their commitment and service will never be forgotten.
While this particular aircraft was not used in active bombing, it was present during wartime in the South Pacific and is an incredible piece of history. Governor Bill Lee also made a pit-stop while in the Tri-Cities on Tuesday to take part in viewing the historic B-17 Bomber.