CAMARILLO (CBSLA.com) — Bob Jones slid into a seat on a massive B-29 Superfortress and he was thrown back into memories of the war.
“To get my hands back on that optical sight…it gave you the feeling like you were back there,” Jones told CBS2/KCAL9’s Amy Johnson.
The 90-year-old Camarillo man served as a tailgunner on the bomber in World War II and flew 22 combat missions.
The Superfortress, the only B-29 bomber still flying, is among a group of vintage planes on display in Camarillo this weekend commemorating the Air Force’s history.
It’s a rare chance for visitors to see the aircraft that helped win WWII and they can even purchase rides on the B-29 and many other planes.
Jones was one of dozens who came to the exhibit Friday to take a ride on the Superfortress.
“This particular one, on its third mission, which was to go against Japan, actually saved probably three million lives by ending the war from the air,” according to Retired Colonel Stewart Watkins.
He says it’s important to keep this warplane flying. There are 30 others sitting in museums.
“You don’t get the same feel for an airplane sitting in a museum. You don’t hear the roar of the engine. You don’t see the beauty of it from the air,” Watkins said.
Flight engineers say keeping the 70-year-old plane, nicknamed “Fifi,” up and running isn’t always easy.
“You have to get a little creative with the parts sometimes. We can’t just call up Boeing and order parts,” B-29 flight engineer Don Thurston said.
But those involved say they feel it’s worth the effort when they get the chance to fly WWII veterans.
B-29 Flight Commander Steve Zimmerman said, “Some of them just want to come out and just touch it. And it takes them back. It brings tears to their eyes. It brings tears to my eyes sometimes.”
For more information on the Commemorative Air Force tour click here.