Rare WWII Boeing B-17 Spends Weekend Flying Through Green Country

Saturday, October 24th 2020, 9:04 pm
By: Ashlyn Brothers

TULSA, Okla. -

A historic World War II bomber and its 12-member crew spent the weekend in Green Country as a part of the "Salute to Victory" southern tour.

Oklahomans were given a rare opportunity to take flight and relive some American history. 

Roughly 13,000 Boeing B-17s were built around WWII. The Yankee Lady's crew said this Flying Fortress is one of the few existing, airworthy ones left.

Crew member Grant Schwartz said he's spent nine years restoring the four-engine heavy bomber in Michigan. 

"I started bringing my toolbox out and worked on the start. [It was] the very beginning of the restoration of this airplane,” Schwartz said. 

Schwartz said that B-17s initiated daylight strategic bombing, and the enemy shot down nearly 5,000 during the air war.

The Tulsa Air and Space Museum said its purpose was to “fly high and deep into enemy territory striking high value targets,” such as factories, oil refineries and military installations. 

TSAM representatives said the planes held a crew of 10 and several 50-caliber machine guns. 

"[It] was designed for function and not for comfort,” Schwartz said. 

"You can only imagine what it was like for those young men back in WWII,” Tulsa Air and Space Museum executive director Tonya Blansett said. “You know, flying. It's cold. They're having to scurry from the front to the back of the plane." 

Blansett said they spent the weekend hosting the Yankee Lady, offering ground tours and air rides.

Blansett said the production on these planes was insane, assembling one every 18 to 24 hours. 

"It's vintage. I mean, it is vintage. It's just, it's just beautiful,” said Blansett. “The rivets, they're all uneven. They were all put in by hand." 

Organizers said this is a labor of love and a living piece of history. It might just be a plane to some, but to the families of war heroes, it means so much more. 

"It's just a magnificent piece of the industrial effort, the spirit of the American people during a time when our way of life was challenged,” Blansett said. 

Schwartz said he's grateful to everyone who helped make this mission possible. 

"Everyone has been just very supportive, very attentive to learning the history of the airplane," Schwartz said. 

For more information about the TASM, click here