Local residents and tourists alike are soaring with excitement at the Penticton Regional Airport.
Two authentic Second World War planes from the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum have landed in the South Okanagan, treating visitors to tours and half-hour flights above the clouds.
“We usually tour these two aircrafts four months out of the year in the summertime,” said volunteer loadmaster and fourth officer Gord Johnsen.
The Camrose, Alta., resident and dual-citizen American spends a great portion of his time every year in Arizona, and it was through his passion for aviation that he came across the museum.
He’s been a member for 10 years.
“We want to have a great experience. When I get off these aircrafts, I have never, ever had somebody get off the aircraft with me and say, ‘That was awful,’” he said.
“It’s a flying museum.”
Eight passengers are treated to incredible views on the B-17 plane, and seven are taken on the smaller B-25.
The B-25 flew 15 combat missions in 1944 throughout Europe, sustained substantial damage and was rebuilt over the course of 26 years.
The B-17 was built in November 1944 but did not see combat. It was instead assigned to the Pacific region in 1945.
“Our principal aim is to educate, to inspire and to honour. We are honouring the greatest generation. There simply will never be another greatest generation,” said Johnsen.
In the past, war veterans from all countries have been treated to a free seat on a flight.
“I always say to young people . . . if you don’t remember anything I told you about the various exhibits and planes, I do want you to remember one thing: freedom was not free. Somebody paid for this.”
Fran Topp and her daughter, Rowan, who’s 13, are visiting from Port Moody. They were spending the afternoon at the airport with Topp’s mother.
“She’s a huge (Second World War) buff,” said Topp. “It was kind of on her bucket list to fly in one of these planes.”
Rowan was even treated with the chance to do some maintenance work on the B-25 plane, tightening a loose screw on the underside of the wing.
Penticton Flying Club vice-president Chris Lindal said he enjoys the opportunity to bring the museum to the South Okanagan.
“It brings the awareness to everybody that’s my age and younger,” he said. “The actual flights are the epitome. You get to relive it. They still have the guns at the sides of the windows, and they do allow you to go into the little bubble and hang on to those guns, so you’re flying backwards. It’s incredible.”
The planes take off again on Sunday. Prices for a ride range between US$325 and $850. For a full list of prices, visit azcaf.org/location/penticton-bc-tour-stop.