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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - (WDRB) - "The history is slowly being forgotten as its not being taught," said David Lyon, who pilots a replica of the World War II plane the "Memphis Belle."
The history Lyon is referring to is what millions of veterans experienced during World War II combat. People like Lyon are hopeful that some of that history will reach a younger generation through a new program that allows people to take rides on a replica of a World War II B-17 plane.
In the 1930s, the "Memphis Belle" was the largest airplane in the world. The actual plane is being restored at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The plane's history was told with through a 1990 film of the same name. There are less that one dozen B-17 planes that are still actively flying.
The "Memphis Belle" flight is being made possible through the Liberty Foundation. Passengers who go on board the flight are able to visit the cockpit, glass nose, and observe crew members who operate the plane.
WDRB was granted a seat aboard a demonstration flight to experience the ride passengers would be in for. The flight takes passengers on a 45 minute flight around Louisville and southern Indiana and allows them to get a feel for what World War II soldiers experienced as they flew through the air. The flight costs $450 per person.
James Lee Hutchinson, 89, is a World World II veteran who flew the "Memphis Belle." The Bedford, Indiana resident served in the war from the ages of 18 to 20. Hutchinson said he knew how to fly a plane before he was able to drive a car. "I couldn't drive a car, but they were gonna make a pilot out of me," he remembered.
Hutchinson served as an elementary school teacher and principal for 37 years after he returned from the war. He now dedicates his time to writing and speaking about his service in World War II. "We'll keep telling our stories, from the guys who were there," he said. Hutchinson said it's vital that the history of what happened be shared with younger people. "We try to tell the story for this generation because it's being lost," he said. Hutchinson said there are currently about one million World War II veterans still living.
Lyon said he hopes the flight will encourage vets to open up about their experiences. "They are the silent generation. They don't talk about what they saw. Family members find out things they never knew about. It encourages vets to talk."
Lyon also said the flight honors and educates about the sacrifices made by those who served in World War II. "What they endured in Europe and out in the Pacific is unimaginable for most of us. It's a living history lesson and a living tribute."
Public flights are available on July 19 and 20. For more information, visit www.libertyfoundation.org. Copyright 2014 WDRB News. All rights reserved.