Spotlight on Service: WWII B-17 bomber part of flight museum inspires awe

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A flying museum is in Knoxville this week.

There is one Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress that epitomizes the U.S. bombings of World War II – a B-17 Bomber is at McGhee Tyson Airport and it’s not just for show.

The emotion that comes with the 35,000-pound machine is like no other.

Four engines, two pilots, one Flying Fortress.

About 12,000 planes were built during the war and about 12 are still flying today.

Melisa Foures is one of the pilots of the B-17 on tour in Knoxville; she knows the history, in and out. She also knows just how almost-indestructible it is.

“You’d see pictures of the tail torn off, wings falling off, engines on fire – and it still brought their crews home,” Foures said. “I’t amazing what this thing could take and still fly.”

Despite its larger-than-life presence, the engines are still constantly leaking oil – which is a good sign for this old bird.

Flying high above East Tennessee, we had the chance to experience this piece of history. The things we noticed:

  • Not a comfortable ride
  • Not a lot of space
  • What space wasn’t taken up by the crew was taken up by bombs, oxygen bottles and supplies to keep warm flying at 30,000 feet – for up to seven hours.

These factors, while taking heavy fire were what crew members back in WWII had to go through.

Foures saying that touring the B-17 around the country means so much to so many.

“Its incredible – not only the vets, but the family members I’ve seen them brought to tears,” she said.

John Pate from Fayetteville, N.C. is one of those awe-inspired family members.

“What an awesome sight,” Pate said. His father flew on B-17s during the war. It gives him chills, even on a hot summer day.

“It brings tears to my eyes – it’s tough – it’s a piece of history, it’s something I’ll never – I’ve got chills – I’ll never forget….just to be related to someone who was attached to something like this is just priceless,” he said.

Bringing together memories and history – two things that can never be replaced.

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