Historic Flying Fortress, A WWII Heavy Bomber, Makes Stop In Weatherford

Tuesday, October 19th 2021, 5:44 pm
By: Brittany Toolis


A piece of U.S. history made a stop in Oklahoma as the Stafford Air and Space Museum hosts a B-17 bomber.

The plane model was heavily used in World War II and is one of the last of its kind. Only a handful are still taking to the skies. 

The B-17 in Weatherford gives Oklahomans the chance to step back in time and into the shoes of a WWII flight crew.

"It really kind of takes your breath away. How bright and big and beautiful it is. It's just like, 'gasp, oh my gosh,'" said Terri Lockhart, one of many who toured the aircraft.

The Yankee Air Museum owns over 75-year-old plane "Yankee Lady." The group bought it in 1986.

"Well, the airplane made a shadow of a B-17 on the ramp but all the military equipment, the armor mount had been stripped out," said pilot Grant Schwartz. 

Schwartz said it took them almost a decade to restore it.

"We had members in our very early days that put second mortgages on their house," he said.

Now, the flying museum tours the country and gives history buffs and plane enthusiasts the chance to see and ride in the aircraft for the first time.

"This is so rare to get to have a plane like this that's such a huge part of history," said Lockhart. 

Rick Koch got a bird's eye view of Oklahoma.

"Even us older guys, we're just big kids, just got more birthdays," Koch said.

The B-17 also reunited some, like Carol Gaunt, with a piece of his own history.

"It's emotional, brings back a lot of memories," Gaunt said.

Gaunt spent more than four years in the U.S. Air Force in the 1950s where he worked with B-17s. One he remembered is a B-17 that a general used to fly around in.

"It was polished brighter than that one," Gaunt said "[When landing] It used to hover, almost hovered. It just gradually rolled in; it was neat."

Gaunt got his ticket to fly for Father's Day.

"It's a thrill to get to do it because during WWII, I was a teenager, and the B-17 was my bomber," he said.

The Yankee Lady takes a dozen passengers at a time to the skies. With the aircraft restored to its former glory, flyers get to man posts once taken by young men who risked their lives.

"You could see the bomb bay doors where the bombs were dropped out and the 50 caliber machine guns, and you just couldn't hardly imagine what it would be like in a fight. It really makes you appreciate the men that did that for us," said Koch. 

Earl Raleigh, another veteran, was happy to see the plane.

"It's a landmark plane for the Air Force. One of its finest and it had one of the finest crews," Raleigh said.

The Yankee Lady will be at the Stafford Air and Space Museum until Wednesday. Then, there are two more stops on the plane's tour. Next is Lawton and then it will stop in Texas before it ends its tour season.