DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Chuck Newman is part of a generation that's disappearing.
In Cleveland today a special flight, in a very special plane, happened for a man who knows it all too well.
"As you walk up to it what runs through your mind?" Cleveland 19 Reporter Dan DeRoos asked as they walk closer to a B-17 Flying Fortress parked on the tarmac of Burke Lakefront Airport.
"Ohhh all kinds of things," Chuck Newman said.
Newman, of Cleveland, is 92 years old.
When he was a tail gunner in a B-17 during World War II, he was just 19.
"It was dangerous but I was too young to know any better. But we managed," Newman said.
There were nearly 13,000 of these planes manufactured for the war.
The B-17 in Cleveland this week, called Madras Maiden, is one of only four that still flies today as a part of the Liberty Foundation.
During the war a crew of 10 had about a 60 percent chance of actually making it home alive.
Newman flew his missions from England, to Germany and back.
"How dangerous was it?" DeRoos asked.
"I never thought about it at the time. It was pretty dangerous," he said standing near the wing. "They told me, I never experienced, but they told me the average life [expectancy] of a tail gunner at Campout was 5 minutes."
Today for the first time since April of 1945, this veteran got to fly again.
"You look a little giddy. I don't know if giddy is the right word?" DeRoos said to Newman.
"I am. It's very very exciting," he said.
When the engines roared to their starts, thick smoke got blown back.
The take off was amazingly smooth for being a plane that is about 75 years old.
Once in the air we explored the plane, which offered up phenomenal views.
Newman gave the camera a thumbs up in the extremely noisy cockpit area during the flight.
The flight along the Lake Erie coast was beautiful with blue skies and lasted about 15 minutes.
It was long enough for Newman's face to look like he was 19 again.
"I can't tell you about it. It's fabulous. All kinds of memories going through my mind. All kinds of things," Newman said once back on the ground.
The Liberty Foundation said the aircraft will be open to the public and available for flights, for a fee, and ground tours on Saturday and Sunday June 23-24 from Signature Flight Support located at Burke Lakefront Airport.
There will also be an AT6 Texan offering flights for a fee.
"The B-17 flight experience takes 45 minutes with approximately half hour in flight. B-17 Flights are $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members. Passengers can become a Liberty Foundation Member for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends," according to a release from the Liberty Foundation.
Flight are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., every hour on the hour.
Ground tours are from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. with just a donation.
To book flights you need to call these numbers:
- B-17 918-340-0243
- AT6 Texan 260-341-8749