B-17 "Flying Fortress" lands in East Texas

Carl Doyle
Carl Doyle
Donald Lee Hell
Donald Lee Hell
Sandy Thompson
Sandy Thompson

By Whitney Grunder - bio | email

JASPER, TX (KTRE) – Vintage aircraft, a skydiver jump team, even remote controlled aircraft are just a sampling of what's being offered at this weekend's Jasper air show.

World War II era bombers and modern military aircraft will be on the ground and in the air. The B-17 in particular, brings back vivid memories for those who flew it.

Saturday, the "Texas Raiders" B-17 touched down at the Jasper County Airport giving East Texans a chance to re-visit her power and beauty. Carl Doyle smiles as he remembers what it was like to fly aboard the B-17 bomber more than 60 years ago.

"I was raised on a farm and never did see planes hardly ever, let alone get to ride in them so that you know, gave me a chance to go," said Doyle.

The World War II veteran joined the Air Force toward the end of the war, and served as a weather observer. Still, he got his chance to fly.

"The B-17 had a boat on the bottom to go out and drop down if one of the planes went down and every time I got a chance, I was on it," said Doyle.

Donald Lee Hell spent 1,000 hours flying the bomber with the Coast Guard, rescuing lost ships and planes.

"Mainly our mission in these was just to search the oceans and try to find them. When we found them, we'd try to get a ship to them or we'd get them a life raft," said Hell.

Donald will take any opportunity to pay a visit to the B-17.

"Flying in one for that many hours, you just like to go look at them again," said Hell.

She may be beautiful but the vintage aircraft was also a potent weapon that dropped more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft in World War II.

"It was called the flying fortress possibly because it took so much flack and stood up as a fortress in the war and those that were built, a very few remaining today," explained public information officer Sandy Thompson, who helps to educate people about the bomber.

This one, called the "Texas Raiders" was purchased in the late 60's by the Commemorative Air Force. It did not see combat. Still, it brings forth many stories from bombers that did, and the soldiers flying them.

"They were up there long range, heavy suits, on oxygen and on top of that they are getting shot at," said Operations Officer Walt Thompson, who pilots the B-17.

The B-17 was able to defend itself, returning home even after extensive battle damage.

If you couldn't make it today, you can still check out the B-17 and all of the air show action tomorrow at    1 PM at the Jasper County Airport. Gates open at 8 am. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 7 through 12. Kids under 6, get in free.

This year's show is dedicated to Ralph Day and his family that died in a December plane crash in Wyoming.

©2011 KTRE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.