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Sun, Oct. 20

Witucki: Rare airplanes a reminder of sacrifices, hard work

The B-17 bomber aircraft from World War II has been in the news lately, though not in a good way. One of the rare planes crashed last week in Connecticut, and we mourn the lives lost.

You may have seen a B-17 last week as well. The Commemorative Air Force was in town for the Wings out West airshow, and they brought along some of their historic aircraft from World War II. The nonprofit group’s mission is to restore and preserve aircraft from the war. In many cases they rely on volunteers, and my family and I used to volunteer for the group when we lived near one of their various locations around the country.

A few lucky people, including reporter Max Efrein, were able to go for a ride in one of the airplanes while they were in Prescott. Many more people probably wanted to go, but then they saw the ticket price. Let’s just say the cost was a bit high for most of us, especially for a short flight.

But that high price is a reflection of how difficult it is to maintain the aircraft. If a World War II bomber is missing some parts, you can’t exactly call Boeing and order them. You have to salvage them from other aircraft, or if necessary, re-build the parts you need. As you can imagine, that takes a lot of time and money. Some of that money is raised during airshows that the CAF takes part in.

You don’t have to be a pilot or a mechanic to help the CAF. But you do have to be able to appreciate the aircraft. That’s not difficult, especially when you think about the history of those planes.

When we enjoy watching WWII aircraft fly past us at an airshow, it’s important to remember that the original pilots and crew who flew them were shooting and getting shot at. Tragically, not everybody made it home.

But those who did make it home can have incredible tales to tell. You may have read our recent story that mentioned Peter Marshall, a WWII prisoner of war who was held for 1,368 days. Marshall was a special guest at an event marking National POW/MIA Recognition Day last month. His story is certainly a reminder of the sacrifices so many people made to preserve our freedom. I’m glad we still have some WWII veterans that we can honor.

The deadly crash in Connecticut has some people talking about grounding older planes permanently. That would be a dramatic change for the CAF. Fans of older aircraft likely will disapprove, but regardless of what the future holds for the B-17, even more important were the people who flew them.

Steve Witucki is community editor for The Daily Courier of the Prescott News Network. Email him at switucki@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1104.

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