The Flying Fortress will stay in Leesburg from Friday to Sunday as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) national tour.
“It is a great opportunity to see what is normally behind a rope in a museum”, Neil Morrison, a volunteer pilot with EAA, said.
“This is a museum piece that travels and operates, it is quite an undertaking,” Morrison explained. “People want to connect and see what their family members may have flown during the war. This is a 1930s design. It is a pretty airplane with an art deco style. There is a lot of pride in bringing it out to show people and it is a joy to fly.”
Throughout the weekend, there will be flight tours available for purchase in the mornings and ground tours in the afternoons.
Stanley Caulkins, owner of Caulkins Jewelry in downtown Leesburg and a passionate advocate for aviation in Loudoun County, served in WWII as a radio operator. He said seeing the B-17 reminded him of some of the good the plane was able to do as the war ended.
“At the end of the war, people were starving to death all over Europe. The Americans were able to reach an agreement with the Germans that they wouldn’t shoot at us so we could drop food to the people. We dropped food rations at designated drop areas,” Caulkins said.
“We also went into areas where people were leaving the POW work camps and concentration camps. These people were leaving with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We were able to help them by flying them [in the B-17s] to where they lived before their imprisonment. All we could do is fly them there and then open the doors and let them go home.They had no transportation, nothing. But at least we could help them a little,” Caulkins added.
“There is no glory in dropping bombs, but feeding the starving people was a good thing and we used these war machines to do it,” Caulkins said.
David Pearce, who received the Master Pilot Award in 2008, is a Korean War veteran and was one of the first to land at Leesburg Airport when they built it. On Thursday, he recalled when Leesburg Airport was just a cow pasture.
Mission Flights will be held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and ground tours will be held between 2 and 5 p.m Friday through Sunday at Leesburg Executive Airport. For more information visit B17.org.