ABOVE WATCH: If you’ve been looking to the skies in Lethbridge, you may have already seen jets arriving for the Lethbridge International Air Show. Included is a special plane honouring veterans around the world. Quinn Campbell reports.
LETHBRIDGE- The B-17 bomber is a war bird that dates back to 1935, and it touched down in Lethbridge this week to educate young residents and inspire local pilots.
Chief Pilot Russ Gilmore loves to fly the plane, calling it an honour. Called the “Sentimental Journey,” the plane’s purpose is to remind people of the role it played in the Second World War.
“They don’t teach World War II that much and what the veterans did for our freedoms,” said Gilmore. “So when the young folks come out and they look around and go, ‘wow’…They look around, they go for a ride, it really brings it all home that these guys really did do something for us.”
For plane buffs like Melissa Robdrup, taking off in the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress was surreal. The B-17 is her favourite plane, and she won the best seat onboard through a charity raffle.
“That was a dream come true for me,” said Robdrup. “That was the equivalent of a little kid wanting to be an astronaut when they are little and wanting to go to the moon, and I feel like I just went to the moon.”
A young pilot herself, she realizes the importance of the plane and the men who flew it, sacrificing so much to protect our freedoms.
“I had tears falling down when we were taking off because I just couldn’t believe that I was actually in a B-17, this living piece of history…My obsession and my dream come true,” she said. “It was completely emotional and amazing. I had to touch everything in there, there was a bomb site that I was looking through and just imagining what these soldiers went through.”
The bomber flew in both Europe and Asia during the war with a 10-man crew. Nearly 13,000 of the planes were made.
“We have met hundreds if not thousands of veterans,” said Gilmore. “I’ve been doing this for about 20 years and the stories they tell of incredible heroism and sacrifice for the freedoms that we enjoy today…My uncle, Serge, everyone called him Serge, he was a crew chief on B-24s.”
Gilmore is part of the Airbase Arizona museum, the crew who looks after the plane says they are fortunate to have her because only 10 B-17’s worldwide are still able to fly.
The event in Lethbridge has given people like Robdrup a chance to make dreams come true.
“It’s crazy to think that in 2015 we are here on a leisure flight on this awesome war bird.”