B17 bomber comes to Lexington

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The public is invited to take a ride in a historic B17 bomber this weekend at the Aviation Museum in Lexington.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) is a non-profit where volunteers tour the country, educating the public, taking guests on flights.

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According to the EAA, there are fewer than 15 B17’s that are still airworthy, making the Aluminium Overcast living history.

“You got the opportunity to ride on an airplane that’s configured as it was a B17G in World War II complete with machine guns, sample bombs,” said aircraft commander Rick Fernalld.

John Ricciotti, the co-pilot added, “They built 12,731 of these aircrafts.”

Fernalld and Ricciotti not only fly this plane, they tour the country teaching others about its rich history.

Thursday, brought them to Lexington where they took 10 members of the media for a flight aboard the 65,000 lb. plane.

Looking around, it certainly wasn’t built for comfort, although Ricciotti says we were likely more cozy than its original crew.

“It was 40-50 degrees below zero. They got frostbite around any part of their body that wasn’t covered around their face, around their oxygen mask. They came back all red from frostbite. Their guns weren’t heated so as they’re shooting everything was cold. We get a little taste of it but to go on an 8-9 hour mission where people are shooting at you and shooting flack at you, it’s got to be a whole different experience,” explained Ricciotti.

While sunny, our crew did encounter a few bumps but that didn’t stop anyone from getting out of their seat to explore.

Guests can walk through narrow catwalks and wiggle through tight spaces to checkout the views but Fernalld says the real reason is to give guests, “an idea of what crew members, which were actually young men, 18-20 year olds that went to war everyday in something like that.”

And for Fernalld and Ricciotti, it’s personal.

“John’s father was a top turet gunner and engineer and my father was a tailgunner on the B17,” explained Fernalld.

Their love for it is so great they volunteer their time to do this.

“It’s been a lifelong dream,” said Ricciotti.

And they encourage anyone who hasn’t experienced a B17 to join them.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” added Fernalld.

Starting at 10 a.m. Friday, the public can book one at the Aviation Museum in Lexington.

Organizers say tours last about an hour, of which, about 24 minutes will be spent in the air.

You can book a flight directly by clicking HERE.

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Erica joins the ABC 36 family as a Co-Anchor of Good Morning Kentucky weekday mornings from 5am-7am with Cody Adams and Good Day Kentucky weekday mornings from 9am to 10am. Erica also anchors News at Midday from 12-12:30pm. She is also a Web and Social Media Content Producer. Erica graduated in three and a half years from Michigan State University with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and specialization in Women, Gender and Social Justice. Although she hails from Michigan, Erica has worked as a News Reporter/Sports Anchor for the CBS-affiliate in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Prior to that, she worked for a PBS-affiliate there covering all types of news – even providing live reports for The Weather Channel during her first hurricane. She then moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana and worked as the Weekend Anchor/Reporter at KPLC, the NBC/FOX/CW affiliate. Erica comes to Lexington from the Huntington area where she worked at WSAZ, an NBC/CW affiliate in West Virginia, as a weekday evening anchor covering the tri states of Ohio and Kentucky as well. In addition to her background on TV, Erica has worked in radio, served as the PA announcer for the Class A "Lansing Lugnuts" and hosted Carnival parades in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some of her favorite hobbies include running, reading, hiking, spending time with her husband and taking pictures of their furbabies. Erica is big on community involvement, having served as a board member for Dress for Success, volunteered as a Big with Big Brothers Big Sisters, worked on the Mayor's Armed Forces Commission in Lake Charles and hosted countless events. She hopes you can connect with her on Facebook: EricaBivensTV and on Twitter: @ericabivens or Instagram: erica.bivens. You can also email her at ebivens@wtvq.com. Please send all event inquiries via email. Erica is excited to explore Lexington and the outdoors and - of course - meet all of you!