CHARLESTON — The Yankee Lady, one of only 10 World War II-era B-17 bombers that remain airworthy, will be making a Memorial Day weekend appearance at Charleston’s Yeager Airport on May 29 and 30 for self-guided tours and six 35-minute flights as part of the Yankee Air Museum’s “Honor the Heroes” tour.
Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, but the arrival of COVID-19 curtailed public observances of that achievement, according to Kevin Walsh, president and CEO of the Ypsilanti, Michigan-based air museum. This year, the air museum is redoubling its efforts to visit key states to honor those who helped win the war.
Walsh said nearly 219,000 West Virginians saw military service during World War II, making the state fifth-highest in the nation in the percentage of population on active duty during the war.
“Our B-17 Yankee Lady and its crew are honored to be guests of Yeager Airport and Capital Jet Center,” Walsh said. “Bringing our ‘Honor the Heroes’ tour to Charleston on Memorial Day weekend is a vital stop for us.”
Charleston will be the Yankee Lady’s second stop on the tour, following an appearance in Toledo, Ohio. The B-17 is scheduled to arrive at Yeager Airport’s Capital Jet Center at 10:30 a.m. May 29 and host 35-minute flights departing at 1, 2 and 3 p.m., with additional flights departing at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 30.
Due to limited seating, the maximum number of passengers on each flight is 12. Passengers must be able to board the aircraft on their own or with minimal assistance.
Cost of the flights is $495 per passenger, with proceeds used to maintain the museum’s five touring and 19 static-display aircraft.
Self-guided tours of the Yankee Lady are available for $8 for those 15 and older, and $3 for those 6-14 years old. Admission is free for children under 6.
To reserve seats on one of the six 35-minute flights from Yeager Airport, visit www.yankeeairmuseum.org and click the “Fly With Us” tab.
The Yankee Lady was among the last of 12,731 B-17s built between 1936 and 1945. The heavy bomber, designed for long-range, high-altitude missions, was equipped with up to 15 50-caliber machine guns, earning it the nickname Flying Fortress. More than 5,000 B-17s were shot down over Europe during World War II.
The Yankee Lady rolled off the assembly line Lockheed Aircraft’s Burbank factory on July 16, 1945, a month before World War II ended. It was not deployed for combat use and was instead placed in storage at a Texas airfield.
In 1946, the Yankee Lady was one of 16 B-17s transferred to the Coast Guard for use on long-range iceberg patrol flights and to drop emergency gear, including a 30-foot wooden lifeboat, during air-sea rescue missions.
After retiring from Coast Guard duty in 1958, the aircraft was converted to use as a tanker, hauling water and fire-retardant materials to drop on forest fires. In 1969, it was one of five B-17s flown to Hawaii to appear in the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!”
The Yankee Air Museum bought the aircraft in 1986 and spent the next nine years restoring it to its original configuration and upgrading its operating systems. Almost all work was performed by volunteers.