LUBBOCK, Texas — They’re a passport to the past in the form of planes.
This week, the Commemorative Air Force brought three World War II-era aircraft to the Silent Wings Museum to give tours and what they call “living history flights” to the public.
For any history buff, the vintage warbirds are an immediate sight to behold, but even if you’re not a history buff, watching the planes take off is a full body experience. You can smell the exhaust, hear the engines roar to life, and when you look up to the sky, it’s like a time machine to the 1940s.
First, there’s the B-17 Flying Fortress named Texas Raiders. It dropped bombs on Nazi Europe and is one of only four left flying today.
“That aircraft was designed and built specifically to bring the war to an end as quickly as possible,” Howard Quoyeser, Mission Tour Director of the Gulf Coast Wing of the CAF, said.
Inside Texas Raiders, the cramped conditions and the machine guns speak to the bravery of the men it carried into combat.
“I’ve heard many times that veterans would say if somebody said they weren’t scared, they were lying … I think that everybody probably had some fear [on these aircraft] because I know that I did. I wasn’t in World War II, but I still [flew in these], and I got scared,” Quoyeser said.
Then, there’s the Helldiver dive bomber that destroyed Japanese battleships in the Pacific. It’s the only one in the world flying today.
Finally, there’s the training plane that turned thousands of young men into pilots — the AT-6 Texan.
The CAF saved and restored these planes, which you may have seen flying over the Hub City this week.
Going up in the antique aircraft is loud, it’s bumpy, and some people even get air sick. But 70 years ago, a flight on one of them was often life and death.
“I want you to think about a 19-year-old boy, and he’s getting ready to go fly on this airplane to go on a mission from which he may never return … difficult to think about for me,” Quoyeser said with emotion in his voice.
The CAF said saving these planes is way to say thank you to the Greatest Generation and a way to keep their stories alive for the next one.
“It’s quite an honor to be able to fly these things and remember those acts [of courage,]” Chris Dowell, colonel and pilot with the CAF, said.
The airplanes are on a tour across the country, and their next stop is Denver, CO, and then Cheyenne, WY. To learn more about the planes and the CAF, click here.