Photo credit: Kevin Hong
It has been 70 years since the U.S. Army Air Corp lifted into the air to create the largest air armada ever to fill the skies during World War II, but on Aug. 22-24, an array of WWII warbirds will be roaring over Corpus Christi, Texas.
Leading the squadron into Corpus Christi International Airport will be the famed B-17 Flying Fortress Texas Raiders. Joining her will be the B-25 Mitchell Yellow Rose and the C-47 Skytrain Bluebonnet Belle, from San Marcos and Burnet, Texas, respectively. Following them will be the unique SB2C Helldiver dive-bomber plus a Corpus Christi-based Stearman trainer. All five aircraft are notable for their historic importance and level of restoration.
Over 12 thousand B-17s were built to further the war effort. Today, only nine remain flyable — one being Texas Raiders, which bristles with machine guns and period-specific equipment. The B-25 Mitchell Yellow Rose is also rare — one of only 27 of the remaining famous bombers. The C-47 Skytrain Bluebonnet Belle is one of the very popular and widely used aircraft in military history, and acclaimed by General Eisenhower as one of the four weapons that won WWII.
Joining them will be the SB2C Helldiver dive-bomber, the only one flying in existence today, as well as the locally based N2S Stearman bi-plane, flown by CAF Third Coast Squadron based in Corpus Christi.
Meeting the CAF aircraft in Corpus Christi will be a highly decorated WWII aviator, Lt. Col. George Reed (USAF Ret) of Alice, Texas. Early in the war Lt. Col. Reed learned to fly multi-engine aircraft in Marfa, Texas and flew in combat over Europe with the 15th Air Force based in Italy. Flying a heavy bomber for 35 missions, Lt. Col. Reed earned the Distinguished Flying Cross among other decorations, and ultimately retired from the Air Force with over 26 years of service.
All five aircraft will be available for tours to the public beginning at 2:00 PM August 22 and continuing throughout the weekend. The public can visit the aircraft and for nominal admission can take walk-through tours that include commentary from crewmembers. WWII Veterans and Active Duty service men and women may tour for free with their Military ID. Attendees who want the ultimate Living History Flight Experience can make a reservation now for one of the limited number of 30-minute flights on the popular aircraft.
The public is invited to come out to Signature Flight Support, 574 Hangar Lane, at the Corpus Christi International Airport to tour all the aircraft and talk with their crews. Admission is $10 for adults (ages 13 and up), $5 for children (ages 12 and under) or $20 for a family of up to five members. Those who wish to fly in a warbird are encouraged to call 1-855-FLY-A-B17 (1-855-359-2217) or email info@B17TexasRaiders.org to make a reservation.