WWI Veterans given a flight on historic plane during visit to St. Simons
by Pamela Permar Shierling
A piece of history flew into St. Simons Island last week when the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) landed their B-17 bomber museum at the St. Simons McKinnon Airport.
The restored B-17G Flying Fortress Aluminum Overcast tours the United States as a living tribute to the “greatest generation” who built and served heroically on these magnificent warbirds.
The B-17’s pilot Rick Fernalld began flying the plane in 1998 after flying commercial with Western and Alaska Airlines.
Saying he flies World War II veterans at most tour stops, Fernalld said, “It’s a great honor to be able to do it. My dad was a tail gunner in one of these.’’
Fernalld explained the B-17’s technology as ‘1935 simple.’
“It’s like flying a cement truck with two flat tires and no power steering,” he laughed.
The B-17 tours the United States in support of local EAA chapters such as the local Chapter 905 at McKinnon. It also gives the public a chance to re-visit history.
During the media flight last week, Fernalld took up two St. Simons WWII veterans with the group.
Dick Irwin, a WWII B-25 navigator and bombardier, flew with his daughter, and Larry McDonough who was a B-17 pilot during WWII flew with his son Joe.
According to Dale Ensing, EAA tour coordinator for the B-17, this particular airplane was never flown in combat, instead being used to do survey work in Southeast Asia and North Africa.
EAA Chapter 905 sponsored flights on the B-17 Friday and Sunday morning and Saturday afternoon and ground tours Friday and Sunday afternoon and Saturday morning.