TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It was a symbol of US air power during World War II-- The B-17 Bomber.
Very few exist today, but one restored relic of that war is in Tyler for display, and in some cases flights.
KLTV 7's own Bob Hallmark got to experience the flight of the Flying Fortress and meet with veterans who climbed into this plane for the first time in decades.
Called the aluminum overcast and restored through EAA aviation, the B-17 took to flights of admirers and media up Monday, to show what it was like to fly in the massive bomber.
Pilot Michael Hastings says, "We're holding on to a very important part here, this is what we're doing, making sure that history stays alive and its again an actual representation someone can come and see what these good people and touch history."
Jack Robinson, 89, was a ball turret gunner, and was shot down in Italy
Jack Phillips was a B-17 pilot in 1945.
Phillips says, "There was a risk in taking off and landing, but it was a good ole airplane, it took a lot of runway."
For the first time in over 65 years, both got back on the plane they once crewed.
Accurately restored, down to the 13 machine guns, the B-17 was the backbone of the Allied Air Force which dominated the European theatre--but took staggering losses.
Hastings says, "It represents the sacrifices of the men that fought in combat, the risks they took."
But it was an experience these men cherished.
"Good ole memories, even shed a tear thinking 65 years ago I flew this when I was 20 years old," Phillips shared.
Tyler is one of 70 tour stops for the group's scheduled 2011 Salute to Veterans national tour.