Gail and I joined the Commerative Air Force at the end of 2017 after the long time urging by several of our antique car friends who were involved.

The B-17, 'Texas Raiders ' (TR) is one of the 9 or 10 flying B-17s IN THE WORLD!!!!.. and it is based just 25 flying minutes away in Conroe, Texas. The name of the plane is not the original. When it was first restored, General LeMay was involved. He recommended that rather than honor one plane and one crew, it might be better to honor ALL those who served from Texas in WW II.

...a bit of its history....TR was about the 12th from the last one built...never went to Europe...initially turned over to the Navy...went to the Pacific for search and rescue and would drop life boats to downed airmen...later the bomb bay area was converted to a radio room and it became the FIRST AWACS plane.

The triangle L indicates the bomb group,, the VP indicates the squadron, the X identifies the individual plane.


I spent numerous days January through March, working on the B-17 helping with the annual winter maintenance....eagerly learning all its systems and helping time the engines.

In April, Gail and I drove to Hammond, Louisiana to participate in one of the fund-raising events, which they call 'barnstorming'. TR was ending its first mission of the season to Florida and Georgia. At the event, they sell t-shirts, hats and other souvenirs. For a nominal $10, one can climb through the plane for a complete tour of the interior. Also, 25-30 minute rides are sold when a minimum 5 passengers sign up. We had treated a very good Packard friend, Herman, to a ride on TR. Lucky for us, on the last flight of the day, there were two open seats, so Gail and I got to ride.

Gail got the bombardier's seat....straddling the Norden bombsight.

In May, TR was scheduled to go on another fund raising tour, so we 'signed up' to participate.
On May 11 we lifted off from Conroe, TX at 10 AM... Two hours later we landed at Dyess Air Force Base (west of Forth Worth.) for their annual military air show.

For three days the temperature was in the high 90s, but fortunately, the wind was blowing 38mph, so it brought some relief.
On Saturday we met one of the B1 bomber pilots. Unfortunately, he could not give us a tour of his plane, but he did tell some stories of his flights to Iraq and Afganistan....but during the show, he helped with security.

One evening the crew went out to dinner to the Big Tex restauant and we shared a booth with 4 of the Air Force Parachute Jump team. They were a real hoot! They teach jumping at the Academy in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force puts on a great air show for the public. We had to cover our ears because of the thunder of the F-16s. We not only saw the B1s fly, but numerous other military aircraft.

One of the highlights of the show was the 'Tora, Tora, Tora' demonstration. This is a group of 8 US planes modified to look like Japanese Zeros doing a coreographed display to mimic the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. (The team has been performing for 40 years.) TR flies in this event...as if chased by the Zeros....

...but much to our delight was being able to catch the B2 when it did a surprise pass of the airfield.

On Sunday the 13th we again boarded TR and hopped over to the Abilene Regional airport to do a scheduled booked ride.

After the ride, we were sitting in the lounge when a business jet landed. When the pilot came into the lounge he shouted...

"BOB SUPINA!!!!!....what are you doing here?"

Rick, an old friend, who I had talked into buying a Packard back in the 90s ...who took me flying in a P-51 and a DC-3 and 3 trips to Halifax in a Convair 440....is a corporate pilot who is certified to fly more types of planes than anyone else I know.
...just another small world episode....

Later that day we flew in TR to Albuquerque, NM for more barnstorming. I rode in the bombardier's seat for awhile and got a good photo of the shadow of TR as we flew at 8500 feet over a windmill farm.

This is the tail gunner's panoramic view to the back and a view of the #1 engine.


It just so happens that we have good Packard friends, Stan and Michele, who live near Alburquerque. Of course we spent two days mixing our conversations....B-17 and Packard.

Gail and I had volunteered to handle the PX concession for the entire mission. The FBO in Albuquerque (business terminal) graciously allowed us to set up our concession inside, and avoid the heat.

I was able to have on display some of my Uncle Stephen's memorabilia from flying B-17s in WW II.

One of the most rewarding elements of flying with TR, was meeting the men who actually flew on the B-17s during the war. We are so indebted to their bravery and dedication.

The next stop was Amarillo. We had a partial crew change here. The pilot who came onboard usually flies "FIFI", the B-29 that is based in Forth Worth. On two evenings the crew went to dinner at the world famous Big Tex restaurant. This time we were treated to set up our concession in the Texas Air and Space Museum.

The next stop was Tulsa, Oklahoma. The FBO that hosted TR was next door to a Spartan Aviation School....on of the oldest schools oriented to training pilots. There was a large number of foreign young men and women learning to fly.

On all the flights Gail sat in TR's 'First Class' section....the radio room. They are original seats (but we brought along a gel cushion for a bit of added comfort .)


Another Wing of the Commerative Air Force is located on the field. One of the members invited us to their hangar to see their office and projects. The MOST interesting plane was the C-47, That's All Brother. This was THE plane that led the invasion of Normandy on June 6,1944. I had the privilege of climbing through it and getting some pics. So, when I will see it on the news next year, as it recreates the flight 75 years ago, I will be able to reminisce..."I sat in the pilot's seat!"



The last stop on our Mission was at the small airfield in Breckenridge, TX. It seems that many years ago, Howard Pardue, a WW II aviation collector, started inviting his war bird friends to Breckenridge for some fun flying. This expanded to become an air show.
There were 78 WW II war birds on the field, taking turns to strut their stuff. There were C-47s, B-25s, at least 5 P-51s, two Corsairs, etc, etc, etc.
It was especially moving to see the Grumman Hellcat, Bearcat, Tigarcat and Duck to be flying... and to muse that since my Father had worked for Grumman during the war as a machinist supervisor....just possibly he worked on these exact aircraft.


It was the greatest airshow I had ever seen.

On Sunday afternoon, we headed home to Conroe after an exhilariting two and a half weeks.

In all, we spent about 12 hours in the air, enjoying every minute of the rumbling 4 engines of the the B-17 'Texas Raiders'.

We hope you enjoyed this adventure as much as we did..

....in fact, we have signed up for another tour later this year to

Bloomington, IL
Terre Haute, IN (air show)
Kalamazoo, MI
Ypsilanti, MI (Thunder Over Michigan air show with THREE B-17s)
Nashville, TN

Bob and Gail