THE FLYING FORTRESS

Celebrating 70 Years
It was almost 70 years ago that the Allied forces accepted the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany, bringing an end to World War II. As part of the nation’s recognition of this 70th anniversary, the WW II B-17 Bomber “Aluminum Overcast” will make a return appearance at the Cape Fear Regional Jetport May 1-3.

The plane first came to the Jetport in October; the Jetport is on the mainland side of the G.V. Barbee Bridge to Oak Island. It was a hugely successful stop for the aircraft.

Jetport Director Howie Franklin said it was the most attended stop the plane and its crew made, even beating out Washington D.C.

“We’re the largest event they’ve ever experienced, anywhere in the country. The people that worked with the airplane were amazed,” Franklin said. He estimates the plane drew more than 1,000 people a day to the airport.

“The locals were extremely excited,” Franklin said. Many flights were pre-sold and he said that in between flights, there were constantly lines to get a look at the plane. “We do have a lot of veterans in the area, but we also have a lot of people from that time who appreciate it,” he said.

Ginny Largent is Secretary of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 939, based in Oak Island. The EAA was instrumental in bringing the plane to the Jetport last fall. Largent explained that the local chapter hadn’t actually applied through the national organization for the plane to make a stop here last year, but at an event they attended, she and her husband Rich, local EAA chapter President, got talking to the people in charge and let them know they were interested.

Largent also said there was incredible support from the community last fall.

“It was the best tour stop they’d had in five years,” Largent said. “There was an outpouring of the community to see this aircraft. We were surprised. We had no idea what to expect.”

This year, the bomber is making a stop from Florida on its way to participate in a flyover as part of anniversary events in the nation’s capital on May 8.

“They wanted to stop halfway,” Largent said. currents3

Though Largent said she doesn’t expect the same crowd numbers experienced during the plane’s first visit, she is hopeful there will still be a lot of interest. Tours, both on the ground and in the air, will be available for a fee. Visitors will be able to place themselves in the positions of bombardier, navigator and waist runner.

Ground tours are $10 for individuals and $20 for a family; children younger than 8 are free with a paying adult. Veterans and active duty military personnel can tour for free.  Advance tickets for flights are $409 for EAA members and $449 for others. Tickets the day of the flights are $435 for EAA members and $475 for nonmembers. Tours and flights will go on as scheduled as weather permits.

There will also be free events on the Jetport property. A movie Friday night is planned for some family time and will help carry the theme for the weekend, and the Brunswick Big Band will have a concert Saturday night.

The “Aluminum Overcast” is just one of the three B-17s still touring of the original 12,743 bombers made for the war. Events like this one bring thousands of visitors to the Jetport, which Franklin said helps make more people aware of the Jetport’s role in the community.

“There are some people in the county who don’t even know we have an airport,” he said. “It reinforces aviation being interesting to people. We also like to reinforce that we are a resource for the public.”

For more information on the bomber and its schedule, visit www.b17.org. For more information on EAA Chapter 939 and other upcoming events, visit www.eaa939.org.

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