If you look up in the sky and see a World War II bomber flying over your house, don't panic: It's just heading to its next tour stop.
The B-17 Flying Fortress "Aluminum Overcast" will be at Concord Regional Airport Oct. 23-24 in celebration of its 75th anniversary. It's an example of the American heavy bomber that helped lead the Allies to a victory during World War II.
The Experimental Aircraft Association and the local Charlotte EAA Chapter 309 will bring the historic aircraft as part of their 2010 "Salute to Veterans" tour.
"The Greatest Generation's sacrifice must never be forgotten," said Chuck Porter, secretary and membership chairman of Charlotte EAA Chapter 309. "The B-17 is a living museum, and our younger generations can ... touch it, smell it and hear it. Hopefully they will gain an appreciation of what happened years ago."
Porter has worked B-17 tour stops before, and he told me about how emotional his first one was.
"During the first B-17 tour stop that I worked, I saw a lady pushing her father in a wheelchair up to the B-17 during his free ground tour," Porter said. "She told me in just a few words that her father was a B-17 crewmember.
"What really spoke to me was that he did not ask to board but just sat there quiet with tears flooding down his face and dripping off his chin," Porter said. "I shook his hand and thanked him for his service, but he could not answer. He just stared at the B-17, obviously with memories streaming through his mind. I will never forget this World War II veteran, even though I never got his name."
Ground tours are offered to the public for $5 per person or $15 per family; children younger than 8 are free when accompanied by a parent.
Ground tours are free to all active military personnel and veterans.
Even better, you can take a flight on this magnificent aircraft. Flights booked in advance are $359 for veterans and $399 for others. Walk-up flights are $385 and $425.
"It is all about the veterans, and our tour stop is named 'Salute to Veterans' for that very reason," Porter said. "As a 70-year-old veteran myself (Vietnam) and regular Army officer, and after living my early years during World War II, I can never thank the ... greatest generation of veterans enough for what they did."
The Oct. 23-24 stop is an open house and fly-in for the community. Besides the B-17, there will be a variety of aviation, military and antique aircraft as well as NASCAR cars, food, vendors, raffles and a helicopter golf-ball drop.
On Saturday evening, there will be a hangar barbecue dinner open to the public ($12 per person) with WWII pilots, veterans, swing dancers and B-17 crewmembers.
All proceeds will be donated to Rotary International's Polio Plus program, which aims to wipe out polio everywhere on earth.