ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- It's been said that the B-17 Flying Fortress helped shape World War 2 like no other aircraft. Its heavy payload, defensive armament and rugged construction allowed the Army Air Forces to eventually cripple Germany.
Its fighting days are now over. And that piece of our world history is now on a tarmac at Rochester International Airport.
Of more than 12 thousand originally built...there are only about 9 B-17 Flying Fortress planes that can still get up in the air and fly, and even fewer than that do so regularly.
It's a plane that may have changed the course of history.
"I don't think we would have won the war over Germany if we did not have this to attack them," said pilot Chris Schaich who flies the B-17.
And 70 years later...it's still flying.
"Well it's a real kick in the pants to go out and fly," Schaich said.
The Sentimental Journey still looks and flies like she would have after rolling off the assembly line in 1943 -- complete with all the guns, buttons and switches.
"Up here is the self destruct for the top secret bomb site at the time," Schaich said.
The Sentimental Journey never saw battle during World War II. The plane was built just as the war was coming to an end, but she built up years of service on military reconnaissance missions, serving as a search and rescue plane, firefighting and she had a roll in the nuclear testing at the Bikini Atoll.
"It was a mother-ship with another B-17 that was a drone and they would drive the drone B-17 through the atomic blast," Schaich said. "This airplane being many miles away would control the remote control B-17."
Since the early 1980's she's been serving her current mission as a flying museum, creating an opportunity for pilots to look back.
"I think about all the people that came before me that have flown this and what they went through," Schaich said. "It is kind of neat to think in the back of your mind that we're doing something so unique."
And giving men, women and children -- veterans, family and new generations a chance to experience, or re-experience, a history that only gets further and further away.
"You get a wide range of emotions and responses out here and they're all very different, you know some people even cry," Schaich said. "But that's part of the enjoyment of coming out here and bringing this to people so they can see it."
The plane will be out at the airport until August 4, so you still have time to get out and check it out.
You can view it from the ground for free.
An interior tour will run you $5 and if you're willing to put up $425, you can even take to the skies.
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