Dedication and passion helped bring a bit of World War II aviation history to Tyler.
The Commemorative Air Force brought seven classic World War II planes to the Vintage Warbird Expo, which continues through Sunday at the Historic Aviation Memorial Museum at Tyler Pounds Regional Airport.
These warbirds also will take flight in the Thunder Over Cedar Creek Lake Air Show on Saturday evening.
“It’s a tremendous amount of effort to keep a vintage warbird in the air,” said Nancy Kwiecien, Commemorative Air Force Gulf Coast Wing executive officer.
The CAF maintains and flies its aircraft in different cities throughout the U.S. Its mission is to acquire, store and fly vintage planes to educate people and honor those who served flying missions on warbirds like these, Kwiecien said.
The B-17 Flying Fortress dubbed Texas Raiders — one of the seven planes — is maintained with the help of volunteers like Kwiecien. The plane’s unit, which is based in Conroe, has a membership of about 200 with 40 or 50 core members who are very active keeping the organization running and the plane flying, Kwiecien said.
“We’re all led here for different reasons,” she said. “Some of us are aviation fans or fans of the aircraft and vintage technology and flight and the actual physicality of engaging with the aircraft. They call themselves ‘plane crazy.’”
Kwiecien estimates it takes about 30 hours of labor for the B-17 to fly one hour in the air.
“That’s everything from turning wrenches on the airplane to cleaning the airplane to managing the parts inventory that goes behind the airplane, managing the hangar and storage and everything that goes with flying the airplane and keeping it running,” she said.
Kwiecien said she enjoys learning the personal stories or those who flew the aircraft. Her uncle was a tail gunner in a B-24 bomber and flew missions over Normandy on D-Day.
At the expo, attendees can view the planes inside and out, and crew members are available to answer questions and educate the attendees about the history of the warbirds.
“I personally believe that — by helping share those stories — we help share and retain some of the American history that’s important to us,” she said.