WWII bomber to touch down in Danville

By Crystal Kang

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) will showcase “Aluminum Overcast,” a B-17 bomber at the Vermilion Regional Airport in Danville, Ill. for the 2011 “Salute to Veterans” national tour from Sept. 13-14.

The public will have the opportunity to fly in the plane or tour it on the ground as they get an up close and personal experience of an actual bomber plane during World War II.

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“We want to take the plane out and show them what a B-17 looks like, feels like and smells like,” said George Daubner, B-17 program manager at EAA.

There will be five flights per day starting at 10:15 a.m. and ending at 1:15 p.m. The maximum capacity per flight is 10 people. Those who reserve early will receive a discounted ticket price of $399 for EAA members and $430 for non-members. Walk up reservations will be $425 for members of EAA and $465 for non-members.

The EAA is a national organization that embodies the spirit of aviation and engages the community through building, restoring and flying recreational aircraft, according to a press release. The purpose for purchasing the B-17 is to do “humanitarian work,” Daubner said.

“The intent of purchasing the B-17 in the 1970s was to do humanitarian missions around the world,” Daubner said. “This happened about the same time OPEC came alive and drastically increased the price of oil, and these doctors couldn’t afford to make this mission, so they donated it to us to continue the work.”

Among the specific areas of aviation, the EAA encompasses the war birds of America. The B-17 was chosen as the war bird of the World War II era because it represents a pivotal moment in American history.

“This was an iconic airplane during World War II, designed and built primarily to serve as a daytime bomber over Europe,” Daubner said. “It played a key role in breaking the back of the German war machine.”

The national B-17 tours have been recurring each spring and fall since 1994. Each tour is meaningful because it provides an educational opportunity for the community and commemorates the veterans, Daubner said.

“We fly it every year in honor of the World War II veterans,” Daubner said. “We’re losing more and more of our veterans every year. This tour is our opportunity to thank them for what they did.”

The EAA supports the Young Eagles Program, which teaches kids ages 7 to 18 about flying. The program entails taking the students up for a free ride and giving mini ground tours on how planes function.

“We are about education. We are about family. We are about introducing kids to aviation,” Daubner said. “A lot of the revenue generated by the B-17 goes toward supporting our education programs for the kids.”

The B-17 tours 25 states and 57 cities each year from April to December.

For more information, visit “www.eaa.org”:http://www.eaa.org/.