Midland Hosts Historic, Endangered B-17 Bomber

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - On Saturday, living history touched down in the Permian Basin.

"Texas Raiders," a vintage World War II B-17 Bomber has made the Commemorative Air Force Base in Midland its new home.

It took eight years of work and $600,000 to get her in the air again.

This piece of history was an old sight for one of Odessa's great men of history, 88-year-old Johnny Campbell, who took NewsWest 9 back to his younger days of 1944.

Stepping into the bomber, he stepped back into his past.

"I flew 35 missions over Germany in an old junker like this," Campbell said. "It didn't have all these fancy seats and stuff. It was just plain. It wasn't heroic. It was just something we had to do."

12,000 B-17 bombers like the "Texas Raiders" were made and now only nine remain flyable in the world.

Weighing in at more than 34,000 pounds, it packs quite a punch but the way to really see it is to see it in the air.

NewsWest 9 took off inside the plane, our cameras rolling as we rocketed 150 miles per hour through the skies.

"It handles like a heavy truck. They're committed to their course," CAF Aircraft Commander, Walter Thompson, said. "They can't try to evade the flak and that's probably the most hair-raising part of their mission. If a guy on the ground got you, he got you."

The B-17s are disappearing.

It costs $3,000 a flyable hour to maintain "Texas Raiders."

Until May 28th, walking tours and rides will be given to help raise funds to keep it flying.

"I hope they take away the environment that those brave airmen fought combat in," Thompson said. "They were getting shot at so those guys had a really tough mission."

But Campbell didn't see a dying breed of planes. He saw a way to thank a plane that always kept him and his men alive.

"They're making better planes now. For the time, they were the best," he said. "This was called 'The Flying Fortress.'"

For tour or ride information, call the CAF at (432) 563-1000.