LUBBOCK, Texas – They are a passport to the past in the form of airplanes.
This week, the Commemorative Air Force brought three WWII planes to the Silent Wings Museum to offer tours and what they call “living history flights” to the public.
For any history buff, vintage warbirds are an immediate sight to see, but even if you’re not a history buff, watching planes take off is a full body experience. You can smell the exhaust fumes, hear the engines roar and when you look at the sky it’s like a 1940s time machine.
First, there is the B-17 Flying Fortress named Texan looters. He dropped bombs on Nazi Europe and is one of only four to fly today.
“This aircraft was designed and built specifically to end the war as quickly as possible,” said Howard Quoyeser, CAF Gulf Coast Wing Mission Tour Director.
Inside Texan looters, the cramped conditions and the machine guns testify to the bravery of the men he brought into battle.
“I’ve heard many times that veterans would say if someone said they weren’t afraid they were lying… I think everyone was probably afraid. [on these aircraft] because I know I did. I was not in WWII, but I still have [flew in these], and I was scared, ”Quoyeser said.
Then there’s the Helldiver dive bomber that destroyed Japanese battleships in the Pacific. It is the only one in the world to fly today.
Finally, there’s the trainer plane that turned thousands of young men into pilots – the AT-6 Texan.
The CAF rescued and restored these planes, which you may have seen flying over the central city this week.
Getting on the antique plane is noisy, bumpy, and some people even get air sick. But 70 years ago, a theft on one of them was often life or death.
“I want you to think of a 19 year old boy, and he’s getting ready to fly on that plane to go on a mission that he might never come back from… hard for me to think about,” Quoyeser said with emotion in his voice. .
The CAF said saving these planes was a way to say thank you to the greater generation and a way to keep their stories alive for the next.
“It is such an honor to be able to pilot these things and to remember these acts [of courage,]Said Chris Dowell, colonel and CAF pilot.
The planes are on tour across the country, and their next stop is Denver, CO, then Cheyenne, WY. To learn more about planes and CAF, click here.