Over the weekend of July 4, I was able to spend some time on the road with the B-17 Aluminum Overcast and, for its first-ever stop, the B-25 Berlin Express. It is always exciting to have the chance to be out there and see the airplanes and the veterans sharing their stories.
One thing I noticed on this stop was a young girl, about 12 or so, working the sales booth for the B-17. This is where you can buy clothing and other memorabilia for our aircraft. She was terrific with the customers and they all seemed to be just as amazed as I was that this young girl was playing an active role in this tour stop. I walked over to find out what was going on. Her grandmother was there with her and I asked about how she became involved at such an early age. Her name is Saundra and she is the granddaughter of Rex Gray, one of our B-17 pilots. I asked her what made her want to volunteer to work the long, hot hours in the trailer.
“I found out what my grandfather did and thought it was really cool,” Saundra said. “I saw it at Oshkosh, then later had the chance to fly in it.”
Saundra remembers that first flight well. “It was loud and I was a little nervous at first when we took off,” she said. “Once up in the air, I thought it was super cool.”
The plane was coming to an airport near where she was camping and she wanted to come out to see it again. Then she decided she wanted to try and help out.
“I love being around the crew,” Saundra said. “They are all so nice and really supportive.”
Saundra is a great example of what our youth can do, provided they have a clear opportunity to be a part of the activities. This story is also a great example of what these historic aircraft can do to bring people together and provide an outlet for everyone who has an interest in this kind of aviation. They are able to inspire others to pursue their dreams of a career in aviation.
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