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Vintage plane winging its way to Penticton
Historians and armchair aviators can take the ride of a lifetime and relive the past in the skies over Penticton next week.
At 10 a.m. on Monday, the historic veteran Second World War bomber B-25J Maid in the Shade is scheduled to touch down at the Penticton Regional Airport courtesy of the Penticton Flying Club.
Not only will the public have an opportunity to take a static tour of the vintage warbird and flying museum, which saw combat action over Italy and Yugoslavia, but for a fee, people can also have a 20-minute flight aboard the Maid.
“Just the thrill to see the airplane start up, the smoke popping and the very loud engines that’s what I noticed as a kid and that’s why I followed this dream,” said Spike McLane, who along with Jerry Briggs is handling the piloting duties on this leg of the aircraft’s tour through western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.
“People will get the full experience, they get to be shoulder to shoulder with the pilots, they get to watch us preflight the airplane, talk through all safety procedures, then zoom through the foothills and mountains.”
The aircraft is currently in Cranbrook after making several stops in Alberta and so far the response has been overwhelming with the crew making as many as four flights a day due to the demand.
“It is also very humbling for us to fly it, just to see the sacrifices that Second World War veterans dealt with to fly this kind of stuff and the tools they needed to win the war,” said the 65-year-old former commercial pilot who’s been at the controls of the Maid for the last five summers.
“We get a lot of passengers who come out and you can see the tears well up in eyes, these older guys, it brings back a lot of memories.
“It’s very emotional for all the crew members.
“You just don’t ever get used to seeing that, especially these older folks, you know they saw a lot more than we ever did.”
According to Spike, it’s not only those who were in the military that the group is reaching out to.
“It’s also for the younger people, we try to remind them about what World War Two was all about so they don’t make those same mistakes again,” he said.
The B-25 Mitchell was made famous by the Doolittle Raiders on April 18, 1942.
Sixteen B-25s took off from the deck of the USS Hornet and bombed Tokyo just four months after Pearl Harbour.
The timing of the plane’s arrival is somewhat ironic because often its role after the war was that of a water bomber used to fight forest fires.
This particular aircraft is actually a 28-year labour of love on the part of the non-profit Commemorative Air Force Airbase Arizona and is staffed by volunteers.
It was originally purchased as scrap metal by a man for $1,800 and donated to the organization.
The name Maid in the Shade comes from the restorative time it spent in the hanger.
A self-professed history freak, Larry Taylor of the Penticton Flying Club echoed the pilot’s advice about taking advantage of this chance.
“We don’t do stuff like this very often and I’m a firm believer that if an opportunity like this comes around, jump on it because it might not come around again,” said Taylor.
“It also lays a line down about what these people in that era were faced with and what they had to live with.”
Flight reservations aboard the historic warbird can be made by calling 780-263-1425 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rides can also be purchased on site. The cost is $395 US for waist gunner and $650US for flight deck.