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Historic B-17 Bomber offers unique air tours this weekend

This weekend in Peoria, you have an opportunity to fly in a living legend of the aviation world.

The B-17G Flying Fortress known as Aluminum Overcast will make passes across the Peoria area on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Between the incessant roar of its engines, wind whipping through a less-than-airtight fuselage and a breathtaking view, there’s a lot to love.

“It’s just a way to taste a little bit of that, experience what our veterans experienced. The romance and history of it,” said Crew Chief Tim Bourgoine.

The bomber, christened with the classic portrait on the side of a blonde-haired woman in a red dress, dates back to the last days of World War II in 1945.

“It’s really a privilege and an honor to fly such an aircraft,” said pilot Shawn Knickerbocker. “There were about 12,731 built in the War. And now there’s only about 14 flying in the United States.”

She’s by no means a smooth ride, and the cramped quarters and exposed windows are by no means for the faint of heart.

Knickerbocker had to laugh. “One of my friends tells me it’s like flying a dump truck with four flat tires. The airplane wasn’t built to be maneuverable.”

But for anyone with an interested in history, aviation or just wants to see something cool, you may not get another chance.

“Whenever you’re working on an airplane, and it seems to want to fight with you, I think it’s because she (Aluminum Overcast) wasn’t in the war,” quipped Bourgoine. “So she still has a lot of fight left in her.”

The trip, at about 25 minutes in the air, feels like it’s over too soon.

To experience a glimpse at what our airmen went through in World War II, however, is an experience that can’t be beat.

Tickets can be bought online or walk-up, though the former is cheaper.

Flights will be held from 10AM-1PM Friday, Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, at the Byerly Aviation building next to the Wayne A Downing International Airport in Peoria.

Ground tours will be held from 2PM-5PM.

All proceeds go towards maintaining the aircraft and others through the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Mason Dowling

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