The shiny, reflective chrome of two bombers hardly shows its age of 75.
Two classic bombers touched down at the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport on Monday and will be providing rides at the end of this week.
The Flying Legends of Victory Tour features two planes built in 1944, a B-17 and B-25 bomber, nicknamed the Sentimental Journey and Maid in the Shade, respectively.
The B-25 pilot, Norman “Spike” McLane, said the plane still handles easily, but taxiing up a runway isn’t so simple. The unwieldy warbird was designed to last 25 missions as a hybrid bomber-fighter plane.
This particular plane, Maid in the Shade, flew bombing raids in Italy and Yugoslavia and survived to be revitalized and toured around the country.
“It got some flak damage, but she flew 15 missions,” McLane said. “It’s as fast as a fighter, but fighters didn’t really mess with it. They’d spend all day trying to catch up to it only to run out of gas for a fight.”
The B-17, a four-engine behemoth developed in the 1930s, was utilized in World War II bombing campaigns in Germany. The model reportedly dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in WWII. McLane said the lighter, more agile B-25 is like a Porsche, while the B-17 is like a bus.
The bombers will be available for touring today, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, when tours will be limited to 2 to 6 p.m.
Booking a seat to fly costs from $325 to $850 per person, depending on which seat and which bomber one chooses. The flights are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday and can be pre-booked at flyinglegendstour.com.
The B-25, a twin-engine medium-sized bomber, was used in every theater of WWII, accounting for all Allied air forces’ use of the plane.
The two bombers visiting Lewiston are on a 25-city tour and will head for Butte, Mont., on the next leg.
McLane is a retired airline pilot and spends part of his summer with the tour. He said the B-25 mostly targeted railroads in its fighting days.
Mike Garrett, tour director, said the B-17 was a dangerous plane to fly on. Its size made it a target, and Garrett said the chances of survival were about one in three. The Sentimental Journey didn’t have a tour in the European Theater; instead, it flew over the Pacific in reconnaissance and mapping missions.
Garrett said the B-17 will have some downtime this week in Lewiston and will go through some checks. Despite being septuagenarians, the planes are pretty reliable.
“These old planes, they like to fly,” he said. “When you set them down for a while, they get a little cantankerous at times.”
Garrett said the crews that fly the planes and set up the tours all volunteer their time. He said the real benefit is meeting veterans at stops across the country or relatives of veterans who can learn about their family’s history.
“There was a 93-year-old guy, a veteran, that wanted to fly but he wasn’t capable,” Garrett said. “He saw a B-17 crash that killed the crew. As he was walking to the plane he started crying, his daughter said it wasn’t from us, it was just the experience that came back to him from that event.”
Holm may be contacted at (208) 848-2275 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.