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June 21, 2013

Local veterans explore a restored B-17 bomber visiting Norman

NORMAN — Joe Jones was born one year and 13 days too late. The Wayne native came into this world April 24, 1945, almost two weeks after his uncle, George Taylor, was shot down and killed during a bomber run in World War II.

For his entire life, Jones has heard about the heroic life of Taylor, who was only 24 years old when he died. Yet Jones never felt closer to knowing who his uncle really was than on Thursday, when he took a ride in the Aluminum Overcast, a restored B-17 bomber.

“This was so special for me because I’ve heard about Gerald and saw his pictures, touched the stuff he touched,” Jones said. “Read letters and anything I could about him. Today, it’s like we touched him. I feel closer to him now. That may sound funny to some people, but it’s right here in my heart.”

Jones was part of a small group of veterans who were invited to go along with the media when the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) flew the bomber around Norman. The Fly Fortress, as it was called in WWII, will be open today and Saturday to the public for tours at the University of Oklahoma Max Westheimer Airport. For $475, walk-up spectators can go aboard the B-17 bomber and take a flight around the city. Pre-booked rides are $449. Flight times are 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.

Ground tours (2 to 5 p.m.) cost $10 for an individual or $20 for a family. Veterans and children under age 8 are admitted for free.

“It’s impossible for us to knock on the door of every single veteran in the United States,” crew member Shad Morris said. “The next best thing is for us to get it flying and fly it around to the veterans. That’s exactly what we do.”

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