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Duluth Air Show Preview: A Ride in B-17 Yankee Lady

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: July 17, 2019 11:58 PM

The Duluth Air Show kicks off this weekend and many unique planes from across the country are visiting. WDIO got to get an inside look at the B-17 Yankee Lady.

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“It’s basically living, flying history. This is a great example of the type of airplane used in World War II,” Ray Nickels, a B-17 pilot, said.

The Yankee Lady is a beautiful 75-year-old aircraft that goes back in time to a challenging time in the country.

The plane was built in 1945. It didn’t get used in the war, but it was used by the U.S. Coast Guard as an air sea rescue. It was then used as a fire bomber and now belongs to the Yankee Air Museum in Belleville, Michigan.

“We did a nine in a half year restoration on the airplane. It’s probably the finest restored B-17 in the world. There’s only 10 or 11 of those,” Nickels said.

Every spot on the plane offered breathtaking views of a beautiful summer day in the Northland.

“It’s an experience of a lifetime to go up on that and sit in the front where the gunners were. It’s amazing looking over the lake and sitting in the very front of the plane,” Gary Swor, a passenger of the B-17, said.

"The navigator would have ran the machine guns if they were in a battle. The boxes in the back would hold ammunition. Each gun had about 400 rounds so when the plane took off it had around 4,000 rounds of ammunition on it," Joe Amend, a B-17 engineer, said. 

"You'll get an impression of what it was like to be in one of these during the war. Military members were 30,000 feet up in the air, it was really cold, really noisy, very uncomfortable, and people were trying to kill them," Nickels said.

Being 3,000 feet up in the air, you get an inside look at history, an aircraft that replicates a heavy bomber that was used during the war.

"At the flight deck we would have had a crew chief and a flight engineer and he also would have been the top turret gunner," Amend said.

“It’s an honor to fly this. There’s all kinds of pilots that would love to do this and I’m lucky to be able to,” Nickels said.

The Yankee Lady offered a unique and memorable plane ride that showed the sacrifices military members went through to give us the freedom we have now.

“Take off was the best part, take off and landing with something that is this big and that's been around for so many years,” Kristie Reville, a passenger of the B-17, said.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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