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SPECIAL COVERAGE: Living With Wildfires: San Diego Firestorm 10 Years Later

2017 Salute to Veterans’ Tour Offers San Diego Public Rides on WWII B-17 Bomber

Boeing B-17

Credit: Ebone Monet

Above: Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortress" at the Gillespie Field Airport in El Cajon on April 19th.

A World War II veteran took off for a special tour over San Diego County in a restored Boeing B-17 as part of the Liberty Foundation “2017 Salute to Veterans” tour.

The “Madras Maiden” will be on display at Gillespie Field Airport in El Cajon on Saturday and Sunday.

Crews brought the historic plane to celebrate 72 years since the end of World War II.

Veteran Frank Neuhausen went on a preview flight Monday.

Neuhausen is no stranger to the so-called "Flying Fortress." Neuhausen said he last flew in a B-17 in 1944, for three D-Day missions over Normandy.

Captain Bob Hill is a career pilot who is entrusted to fly “Madras Maiden." It is one of eight operational B-17s still in existence. Boeing produced 12,732 B-17s, from 1935-1945. More than a third of these were lost in combat.

Photo by Ebone Monet

KPBS interviews WWII veteran Frank Neuhausen, who is 99 years old, April 17, 2017.

A salute to veterans will soar over San Diego County this weekend with flights on board a restored Boeing B-17. Military fans and visitors will have a chance to experience a World War II icon, on display at Gillespie Field Airport on Saturday and Sunday.

KPBS News spoke to Hill before the public aerial tours.

Q. What can you tell us about the history of the Boeing B-17 Bombers?

A. When it first rolled off the assembly line on Settle in 1935, it was one of the largest airplanes ever constructed and it bristled with all these machine guns all about the airplane. So the press dubbed it the “Flying Fortress,” and it stuck.

Q. What is it like flying a B-17?

A. You find it’s relatively stable cause it was a bombing platform — very, very heavy on the controls. It takes large excursions to move the airplane, particularly at slow speeds. It’s a lot of muscle required so to speak.

Q. How do World War II veterans react to seeing an operational B-17 Bomber?

A. We’d show up in airports such as Gillespie, and there might be 10 veterans out here. We’re lucky to see one anymore, but that’s the cycle of life.

Q. These tours are called a flying salute to veterans. How so?

A. I always tell young people, if you look at a picture of Omaha beach, for example, on D-Day, that first wave and you look at the carnage on that beach … You look at that and you look at the opportunity that all these people provided to us. Don’t squander it. Do something with your life.

Public flights are available Saturday and Sunday at the main terminal of Gillespie Field Airport, on 1960 Joe Crosson Drive The B-17 flight experience takes 45 minutes with approximately 30 minutes in flight.

Salute To Veterans Tour

  • Public flights: Saturday, April 22 and Sunday, April 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Location: Gillespie Field Airport, Main Terminal, 1960 Joe Crosson Drive in El Cajon.
  • Cost: $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for nonmembers

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