Once the engines started up, the first and only thing you notice is how loud it is. And it only got louder as the engines revved up for takeoff. Once in the air, the flight bombarded all five senses, and yes, that includes taste. It’s an experience that helps you understand, if only slightly, what it must have been like for those who served and often sacrificed their lives while flying a B-17 over Germany.
Along with me on the flight was 89-year-old World War II veteran Sam Wyrouck. During the war he was a ball turret gunner underneath a B-17 and this flight was his first time inside of one since 1945. But he said he remembered it a little differently than what he experienced on our short flight.
“Dangerous and scary, and cold, and cramped, and claustrophobic.”
He said the flight also reminded him of something else.
“I think about a lot of friends I didn’t come home with.”
Flights inside of the B-17 are put on by a group called the Liberty Foundation. Their goal is to help preserve these historic airplanes to remind people of the sacrifices once made for this country. Bob Hill has been flying this B-17 for about 10 years. He says he volunteers his time because he loves being able to share a little bit of history with people all over the country.
“You know, it’s an experience," Hill said. "And quite honestly it can be a harsh environment. It can be hot in there. It can be cold in there, but that’s what these guys went through too. It’s no different.”
The B-17 in Salt Lake this week is known as “The Movie Memphis Belle.” It’s one of only about 8 functioning B-17’s left, none of which ever saw combat. Hill encourages people to come out and take a ride for themselves at the South Valley Regional Airport between May 31 and June 1. He says the proceeds from the rides help keep the historic plane in the air.