ST. CLOUD - A huge piece of aviation history is stopping by St. Cloud for the next few days.

Through July 6th, the experimental aircraft association (EAA) is offering B-17 bomber flights from the St. Cloud airport.

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a World War II bomber that was used primarily in Europe. During the war, B-17s were among the most modern aircraft in the U.S. inventory.

Between 1935 and 1945, over 12,000 B-17s were produced. Today, less than 15 are still airworthy.

94-year-old WWII veteran Betty Strohfus was on the first tour flight. She was one of the first woman pilots to serve and fly bombers for the United States military.

Strohfus says she had an opportunity to fly airplanes like the B-17 due to a shortage of men in the nation who were serving overseas.

View of St. Cloud from the B-17 (Dan DeBaun, WJON News)

"They didn't have enough pilots to do the training and ferrying," Strofus says

Strofus was helped onto the plane for a tour, it was her first time back on a B-17 in four years. She says these may be the last opportunities for herto fly in the plane.

"That brought back many wonderful memories," Strofus said with a smile and tears in her eyes, "I'm very fortunate that I lived long enough to do this."

 

Richard Taracka is a team mechanic with the B-17, he says the best part about the flights and tours is hearing stories from pilots who flew the plane decades ago.

"The coolest part about this whole thing is hearing stories from those who were actually there in World War Two-it makes you understand what heros they really were," Taracka says.

The B-17 flight offers a breathtaking view of St. Cloud. Flights from the bomber are being offered at 10:00 a.m. 11:00 a.m. Noon and 1:00 p.m. from July 4th-6th. Information on how to book a flight on the plane can be found here.

 

Dan DeBaun, WJON News