AP NEWS

Memorial Day weekend takes off with WWII-era planes

May 26, 2019

Small airplanes and helicopters usually land and take off from the David Wayne Hooks Airport near Tomball, but on May 25, visitors were able to kick off their Memorial Day weekend by seeing a B17 bomber and other smaller fighter planes up close.

The World War II-era airplanes, which tour around the country, allow visitors to see inside the planes and take a look at the cockpit.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to put their hands on history. You can spend as much time hanging around them as you want to,” said Nancy Kwiesen, spokesperson with the Gulf Coast Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.

The B17 first took off the runway in 1935 and was then used by the U.S. Army Air Corps to haul loads of 4,000 pounds of bombs and nine machine guns during World War II, according to Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer which created the plane.

Brandon Kekona carried his three-month-old son Braden Kekona who wore a little white bodysuit with aviator sunglasses printed on and a dark blue bib with an airplane print while his wife, Jessalyn Albano pushed a stroller.

As a pilot, Brandon said he hoped his infant son would follow in his footsteps and wanted him to see the B17, along with the smaller training plane AT-6 Texan, the twin-engine JRB and an open cockpit bi-plane.

He said he wanted to see the way planes use to operate.

“It’s kind of nice to take a step back and see where it came from,” he said.

Aside from touring the planes and seeing the controls and interiors up close, visitors could also take a ride inside the B17.

Nathan Harnagel, also a member of the Gulf Coast Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, is one of the pilots of the bomber which has a wingspan of 103 feet and 9 inches.

During a flight, a pilot, co-pilot and engineer are in the cockpit to help keep track of the plane’s systems.

“It can take a certain amount of physical force to move the airplane around. It’s got four engines to take care of, so those engines are pretty manual. There’s not a whole lot that’s automatic about it. You have to set the power setting and the propeller speed. It’s quite a bit of manual work involved,” he said.

The B17 was built to be stable in the air as it transported munitions and was nicknamed the Flying Fortress.

Melissa Hohenshelt arrived with her family to get a closer look at the vintage planes.

Her daughter, Alicia Hohenshelt, 8, got to climb into the cockpit of the AT-6 Texas, which was used to train pilots.

“It’s an original trainer plane. The guy was saying it was built the year my mom was born—in 1942. It’s actually pretty cool. A little bit of history here. They’re still actual working planes,” Melissa Hohenshelt said.

mayra.cruz@chron.com

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