CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Equipped with machine guns, missiles, radio controls and more, the B-17 Bomber was one of nine vintage war planes to fly in formation across the Kanawha Valley ahead of Yeager Airport and the West Virginia Air National Guard’s 70th Anniversary Airshow.
Members of the media, including MetroNews, were given a tour of the planes during flights across the Kanawha River Friday.
The planes took off from Yeager and flew down to Nitro, then down to Cross Lanes, Institute, Dunbar and then back to Charleston.
Friday’s trip was a preview to Saturday and Sunday’s airshow.
Built in the 1930s, the B-17 Bomber was developed way before it was used in World War II, according to B-17 Bomber pilot Brad Schwartz.
“Many airplanes were designed during the war, but this one was ready to go to production at the beginning of the U.S. entry into it. Over 13,000 of these airplanes were built. This was the 12th from the last one built,” he said.
Flying a plane that is more than 80 years old is not a challenge, but Schwartz said it needs to be taken care of.
“The equipment needs to be handled in a general fashion because we need to try and make it last,” he said. “We’d like to keep it running a few more years.”
Schwartz has been flying for more than 30 years. He is not a military pilot, but said he currently works at the Yankee Air Museum in Michigan. He said Friday’s views of West Virginia were incredible.
“I enjoy flying down low and seeing the countryside on a beautiful day like we have today,” Schwartz said.
With about a dozen people on board, the group was able to tour the plane while in the air including views of the cockpit and down below it.
Thousands of people attended the airshow this weekend. Yeager showed off more than 50 planes along with displays, tours and rides on aircraft during the free event.