by Kevin “K5” Michels
In 2012 there were 11 actively-flying B-17 Flying Fortresses in the world, ten of which gave rides, crisscrossed the nation, or in some way provided a living history experience to countless thousands of Americans every year. Today there are only five left: Sally B, Sentimental Journey, Texas Raiders, Yankee Lady, and Ye Olde Pub. With B-17 Ye Olde Pub just recently regaining her Rides Certificate from the FAA, all four US-based B-17s now give Living History Flight Experiences. Sentimental Journey, Texas Raiders, and Yankee Lady are all that remain on the B-17 touring circuit.
In summary, over the last ten years, the world has lost 70% of its actively-touring B-17 fleet. That is staggering. It doesn’t take a genius to see where this is all heading. Given the difficulties of maintaining and bankrolling B-17 flight operations, at some point, all of the world’s B-17s are going to be in museums silently collecting dust.
I did not bring that up to depress you, but rather as a call to action. You live in an incredible time of opportunity. Ten years ago when I first became involved with TR, there were 2-3 volunteers for every open slot; today, that’s not the case. The reality is that the opportunity is now. Years from now will be too late. Do you want to remember when you flew and worked on TR? Or would you rather wonder what that might have been like?
It takes a village to keep TR flying. Clearly, we need pilots. Clearly, we need a solid maintenance crew. We also need an insane amount of money to support the pilots’ and maintenance crews’ efforts to keep TR flying. Generating that revenue requires the combined effort of the rest of the village. Without the village handling tour planning, rides coordination, PX sales, and dozens of administrative and physical responsibilities, TR doesn’t fly. You are part of the village.
How long will TR continue to fly? That depends on the village. To find out how you can get more involved, visit The CAF Gulf Coast Wing website here.