Visiting the “Flying Fortress”, relatives honor family members who flew B-17’s

Local News

A WWII B-17 bomber plane took some lucky people for a ride this week at the Evansville Wartime Museum.  

For many in the Tri-State, the B-17 is more than just a plane; it is a chance to ride in the seats of the bombardiers who came before them.

“It’s pretty overpowering.”

A winged beast, capable of dropping 20,000 pounds of explosives took to the skies over Evansville, with some lucky passengers strapped in for the ride of a lifetime.

“When I found out that not only could we take the flight, we could be bombardier and navigator, I said that absolutely sealed the deal,” said Brid Igleheart. He surprised his girlfriend Constance with a special flight on the B-17.

On its wings, this plane carries memories, and the chance to connect with loved ones lost in years gone by.

“Signing up to take the flight this afternoon, she was in tears,” Jerry Garrett said about his wife. “Her uncle was a navigator on a B-17 years ago during WWII.”

Jerry bought his wife Suzanne a ticket and watched proudly as she followed in her uncle’s flight path.

“She’s having the time of her life,” he grinned as the bomber lifted off the runway. “She’s got a smile from ear-to-ear right now.”

Katrinka Rynder also came to hear the roar of the engines her great-uncle once heard as he flew over the Pacific.

“My family’s told stories for years about him, and his history and what he did.”

After he flew 23 missions, Captain Clyde Webb Jr. volunteered one last time — and was shot down in his B-17. His body was never found.

“What we have is the history. The letters that he had sent, the Western Union they sent about him missing.”

Back on the ground, Suzanne Garrett stepped off the “Flying Fortress” with a new connection to her uncle.

“To actually see and fly in a plane that he was typically in at that time… it was just amazing.”

But whether by air or by foot, those who came here had a front seat to history.

“It just is awesome to think about how special that is… and what these men did, and what all they had to face.”

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(This story was originally published on June 5, 2019)

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