Fully-restored B-17 thrills with flights of history
Bob Zeoli’s father, Alfred Zeoli, was a top turret gunner in a B-17 that went down over France during World War II.
On Friday, Bob Zeoli got to ride in a World War II-era Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, nicknamed the Aluminum Overcast, that’s visiting Felts Field.
“I don’t know what to say,” Zeoli said as he deplaned. “That was just about the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
The fully-restored aircraft was built in the 1930s for the United States Army Air Corps. It was delivered in 1945, too late to see action. However, it has served as a cargo hauler, as an aerial mapping platform, in pest control and for forest dusting applications.
The bomber was purchased as military surplus for $750 in 1946 and has flown more than 1 million miles, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association, which operates the flights.
The ride Friday offered Bob Zeoli a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse into his now-deceased father’s life.
“You can’t put it into words,” said Zeoli, who wore an old flight suit and his father’s worn leather jacket. “It was pretty damn impressive.”
Also at Felts Field is a vintage biplane operated by pilot Mike Carpentiero, the self-proclaimed last barnstormer. The 1929 D-25 New Standard Biplane is one of just seven flying in the world today.
“You’ve got to get an open cockpit biplane ride sometimes in your life,” Mike Carpentiero said. “It’s unforgettable.”
His plane was built for the Gates Flying service for barnstorming, a form of entertainment beginning in the 1920s in which pilots performed tricks in flying circuses, as well as sold rides to the public.
“It’s definitely an experience,” Carpentiero said. “It’ll last a lifetime.”
The plane carries up to four adults in the front cockpit, and the pilot flies from the rear cockpit.
“I loved it,” said 84-year-old Marge Haasze after her flight. “It was great.”
Her grandson, who joined her on the flight, said “she’s a daredevil.”
She said, “As long as I can hobble around.”