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World War II airplanes visit Columbia Regional Airport

Saturday, September 21, 2013 | 5:50 p.m. CDT; updated 6:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 21, 2013
Onlookers view the World War II P-51 fighter plane, "Red Nose," on Saturday at the Columbia Regional Airport. The exhibit was put on by the Commemorative Air Force.

COLUMBIA-- An enormous, shiny metal airplane displaying a retro star on its side spun its propellers, causing a loud buzzing noise to fill the air. Onlookers stared in awe and reached to cover their ears as the historical aircraft took flight.

"It's my first time seeing these planes," said Jeff Eubanks, a visitor from St. Louis. "This experience has been very enjoyable; it's a beautiful day and the plane is majestic. It looks like a flying raptor to me." 

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Saturday had perfect weather conditions for flying and showcasing two World War II-era airplanes at Columbia Regional Airport. 

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is a heavy bomber aircraft while the P-51 Mustang was used as a single seat fighter in World War II.

The planes belong to the Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit organization founded in 1957 to preserve aircraft from World War II. The organization is completely run by volunteers, including the pilots that fly the planes.

The B-17 on Saturday was named "Sentimental Journey" and is currently the most authentically preserved B-17 out of the seven still currently flying from World War II, as well as the only one that can take off with people sitting in the nose of the plane, pilot Rich Roberts said.

"Our favorite part is when the veterans come out; we have people who worked on it or flew on it (the aircraft) sign the bomb bay door," Roberts said. "And then we'll see the little kids come out and sometimes they know more then we do." 

Visitors included families with children, World War II aircraft aficionados, veterans or people simply enjoying the day.

"My grandfather was a tail gunner on a B-17 in World War II, " Columbia resident Jeremy Grove said. "So obviously I have a lot of interest in what my grandpa experienced, I wanted to come and take a look at the plane he flew in during the war." 

For the volunteer pilots flying such historical and beautiful planes, the experience is hard to put into words, the P-51 pilot Stan Music said. 

"This airplane to me is pretty much the ultimate in flying experience. It's fast, it's maneuverable, there's a sense of history to it and sense of speed," Music said.  "The sight, smell and sound of it is just very, very unique. There's nothing quite like it."   

The exhibit will continue from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. Tours of the cockpit are available for five dollars with rides in both aircraft ranging from $500 to more than $1,000. 

Supervising editor is Stephanie Ebbs.


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