Flying a fortress: Idaho veteran sets foot back in B-17 bomber

Credit: Eric Turner/ KTVB

Flying a fortress: Idaho veteran sets foot back in B-17 bomber

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by Andrea Lutz

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBandrealutz

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 28, 2013 at 10:11 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 6:41 AM

NAMPA -- It was a trip down memory lane Tuesday for one Idaho World War II veteran at the Nampa Municipal Airport.

Ninety-three-year-old Chet Bowers served as a bomber plane pilot for the 100th Bombing Group, of the Mighty 8th Army Air Force out of England.

Bowers now calls Idaho home. The last time he set foot on a B-17 was on June 6,1944, also known as D-Day.

“We were supporting the troops,” he said of the mission.

Thousands of aircraft supported the invasion into Normandy that year, and during the mission thousands were killed and wounded.

Although Bowers' career as a pilot ended decades ago, his memories of that era flew again Tuesday.

“Well it's kind of a tribute to the old geezers still left walking around,” Bowers laughed while explaining Tuesday’s event. “And uh, there are getting to be very few of us around.”

The Experimental Aircraft Association is offering rides and tours of the Aluminum Overcast B-17 bomber.

On Tuesday, Bowers was an honored flight guest along with his 12-year-old grandson Pete for the 15-minute flight over the valley.

“Oh, I just kind of felt that feeling of warmth and kindred with the damn thing,” said Bowers of the B-17.

He was able to ride in the cockpit of the plane.

“I was able to look around and see the bulk heads, and the structure of the fuselage, and watch the wing flaps and see everything work from right there. A bird's perfect view,” said Bowers.

At the end of his D-Day mission, Bowers had completed his duty and was released from combat flying. He walked away from the B-17 and that was the last time he saw one.

“(It's) like friendship with an old old friend,” he said. “It brought back many memories I haven't thought of for years and year and years.”

All eyes were on Bowers when the flight was over and the B-17 was safely back on the runway at the Nampa Airport.

“What a ride, what a ride. God fantastic, choked me up,” he said as he exited the plane.

His mind filled with images of years gone by, but this time he was sharing those moments with a different generation.

His grandson Pete looked at his grandfather and couldn’t help but be proud.

“Do you think he's a hero?” asked KTVB.

“Oh yeah, big hero,” replied Pete.

According to Bowers, there aren’t very many of the historic B-17s left to admire or even fly in.

“Eleven or twelve,” he said. “They better take care of them. It’s a gorgeous old bird.”

However, there are also only a handful of World War II pilots, like Bowers, left in the world to admire as well.

“In my old age, we are a disappearing breed. It sure brought back some memories that touched my heart,” he said.

Ground tours of the historic Aluminum Overcast B-17 Bomber plane are available again May 29th.

Admission is free to veterans, $10 for individuals and $20 for families. Advanced pricing for a flight in the B-17 is available on a first come first serve basis.

You can get more information by calling 800-359-6217.

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