WW II planes on display

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COEUR d'ALENE - Those round circles covered with metal Band-Aids?

Those are bullet holes.

War wounds, as they say, but the old girl is doing just fine.

She does joy rides now, pleasure cruises for historical buffs or anyone else curious what it was like flying over Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

It's 180 degrees from "Maid in the Shade's" working days, when the B-25 fighter plane flew 15 missions out of Corsica, Italy, during World War II. She was the only plane to return to base after one mission whose goal - successful despite the losses - was to take out a bridge in Yugoslavia.

"You can see the battle scars," said Donna Brown, spokeswoman for Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing, the nonprofit dedicated to preserving military aviation history. "It's history firsthand."

Firsthand, as anyone can experience what those flights were like.

In unison with The Coeur d'Alene Airport Association's 'Heritage Wings' event Aug. 17-19, CAFAW is bringing two warbirds to Coeur d'Alene, offering anyone with an appetite for air a chance to fly with the relic bombers.

While the views from above will be scenic Coeur d'Alene and not filled with flak and black smoke from battle, the point of view will be exactly as the solders saw it when they were flying "over there."

For $325, patrons can take a 50-minute ride in the waist of the B-25, with huge windows marking the spot where the boys shot their guns, and a crawl path to where the tail gunner sat. For $650, passengers get to ride in the nose of the plane.

The other World War II plane will be the B-17, 'Sentimental Journey.' It didn't see battle, built right as the war was ending, but rides in the waist cost $425, and for $850 each, two people can sit at the nose of the plane, where the navigator and bombardier sat as they navigated the flight path and commanded the bomb release over target.

They'll be at Pappy Boyington Field until Aug. 20, beginning Monday.

"You don't know how many years these planes will be able to go out and fly and take the public," Brown said of the rare opportunity.

Nor when they'll return to Coeur d'Alene.

Touring the nation as flying history exhibits, it's unclear when North Idaho will mark another landing, though they are the centerpiece of "Heritage Wings."

The event, presented by the Coeur d'Alene Airport Association, Marine Corps League, Pappy Boyington Detachment No. 966 and the Coeur d'Alene Wooden Boat Show, offers several free events for the public over the weekend.

The festivities begin Friday night, Aug. 17, with a free show and dance, with the warbirds in the background to add to the ambiance. Around 100 aircraft will fly in for the weekend event, and free airport tours and vintage and motorcycle rides will be on Saturday.

Need more than just aircraft?

Special guests, including flying design legend Burt Rutan and George Follmer will be on hand, as will food vendors. Free transportation will take patrons downtown for the wooden boat show, too.

Dinner is available Friday night for a $12 donation, and pancakes will be served Saturday morning for a $7 donation. Helicopter rides will be offered for $25 all day Saturday. Vendors will be offering food and other wares.

Proceeds from a silent auction and donations received during the fly-in will benefit Wounded Warriors, Toys for Tots and Honor Flight.

Info: cdaairportassociation@roadrunner.com

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