A behind-the-scenes look at Thunder in the Valley

Published: Mar. 20, 2015 at 9:39 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 21, 2015 at 5:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - The Thunder in the Valley Air Show begins Saturday, March 21 at the Columbus Airport and legendary planes will be on display, including the B-17 bomber from the World War II.

The overcast weather kept News Leader 9's Jason Dennis from taking a scheduled flight on Friday, but he was still able to go on a tour of this piece of living history.

B-17s like this dropped more bombs than any other aircraft during World War II. We saw some of those weapons underneath then toured this bomber, from front to back.

"People see this as an airplane that is responsible for winning the war," explained Ben Doggett, the youngest current B-17 pilot.

Nicknamed the "flying fortress," this B-17 was built in 1945 and most of the controls still accurate for that period.

"This is like flying a Mac truck with no power steering," said Col. Kevin Michels with the B-17 air crew.

The bombardier would sit here, in the nose of the plane, and using the most accurate bomb site in the world, would aim and then, using this joystick, would fire one of the 12 50-caliber machine guns on this plane.

"They designed this aircraft to take combat damage and still bring the crew home," Col. Michels said.

A nearly impossible task for the belly turrent gunner, in the waiste or tail of this warbird.

It was also the most dangerous position on the plane, as his life expectancy in combat was just four minutes... and soldiers on B-17s flew in some of the most dangerous missions of World War II.

"Seventy percent of the crews were shot down," Col. Michels said. "Half of those were killed, half of those were in POW camps."

"There were thousands of these airplanes every single day, flying in formation...go out and bomb somewhere in Germany," Doggett said.

Ben Doggett is the youngest current pilot of the B-17, this iconic one on display at this weekend's Thunder in the Valley Air Show in Columbus, giving people a unique view of the war.

"An appreciation of the history and sacrifices of the men that flew this, fought and died and sacrificed," Col. Michels said.

"It's really the longest continuing flying B-17 in the world," Doggett said.

This weekend at Thunder in the Valley, you can do a tour through that B-17, at a cost of $5 for kids and $10 dollars for adults, or you can go up in a flight on this war bird for $475, riding in the back, or $750 riding in the nose.

Thunder in the Valley is Saturday March 21 and Sunday March 22 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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