The roar of its four engines, the plexiglass nose, the bristling machine guns — for history buffs and aviation enthusiasts, few thrills compare with that of a flight aboard aircraft like the B-17 Flying Fortress, the World War II bomber that helped smash the Nazi war machine.
“It made you feel like you were back in the 1940s,” said commercial pilot Gloria Bouillon, who rode one last month and called it the best flight of her life. “They had it set up just like it would be if it was on a mission. You could put your head out of the hatch. It was windy. It was noisy. You could smell the fuel. It was much different from a flight now.”
But a deadly crash in Connecticut this week of the very same B-17 has cast a pall over the band of brothers — and sisters — who enjoy riding in vintage planes and raised questions of whether machinery over 70 years old should be flying passengers.