Rockford Airfest is canceled this year, but there are still plenty of opportunities for area fans to experience vintage aircraft up close over the next few weeks.
Today through Sunday, one of only thirteen World War II-era B-17s still flying will be available for tours and flights at the Chicago Rockford International Airport. The Experimental Aircraft Association owns the B-17G Flying Fortress known as “Aluminum Overcast.” EAA members and volunteers restored the vintage plane and are constantly working to pay for its maintenance.
On Thursday, several local veterans, one of them a B-17 pilot in World War II, were treated to a short flight on Aluminum Overcast. Charles Harker was in the co-pilot’s seat this time, and said it was much louder than when he flew back in the 1940s. The four-engined B-17 is famous for its top and ball turrets, as well as its ability to function while damaged. It was a long-range heavy-duty bomber.
Flights on Aluminum Overcast cost $475: it’s not just the maintenance that makes it an expensive venture, according to crew chief Bill Hooten. Think about the price of gas: Aluminum Overcast burns through 200 gallons of fuel in an hour. And it costs about twice as much as the kind of gas you put in your car’s tank.
The B-17 visit is part of the EAA’s “Experience History” tour. There will also be other historic aircraft and WWII re-enactors through Sunday at RFD. Then, starting Monday, the Commemorative Air Force arrives with its AirPower History Tour, featuring a working B-29 bomber.
Rockford’s not the only airport showcasing WWII aircraft. The DeKalb Municipal Airport hosts another working B-17, the Sentimental Journey, for tours and rides July 22nd through the 28th.
Special thanks to Doug Connell of Engine Studio in Rockford for allowing us to use some of the photos he took at the event Thursday.