A flying piece of World War II history is touching down in Leesburg for the weekend. The experimental aircraft association has brought its fully restored B-17 flying fortress to town.
Stanley Caulkins flew one of those planes during the war.
“I graduated from high school in 1943. Five days later, I was in the Air Force,” Caulkins recalls.
During his first mission, he lost two engines. “The pilot called me up, told me ‘you better send an SOS,’” he said, worrying that he might not make it home over the English Channel.
They made it, and Caulkins logged more than 600 flight hours in a B-17. It was one of the most powerful aircrafts at the time, capable of sending bombs raining from the skies or dropping food aid.
“In 1941, 42, 43 we were the best thing they had,” Caulkins said.
He flew the plane over the friendly skies of Leesburg Friday with a much-improved view: he's riding in the cockpit.
“I don't know how to explain the exhilaration of watching this old bird fly,” he said.
This old bird is one of the last B-17's built doing the war, now fully restored and touring the country.
Boeing built nearly 13,000 of these flying fortresses. More than 4,700 were lost in combat. This is one of only a dozen that still flies. The B-17 will be open for flights and tours at the Leesburg airport.
It’s loud and a little bumpy, but the views from the nose gun are second to none.
“They most certainly don't make planes or...air crews quite like this anymore,” Caulkins is sure. “I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I hope I don't have to go to war again, but I'd go back in there in a heartbeat.”