WWII vets embark on flight of a lifetime on B-17 plane

Lt. Col. George Hardy served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman.

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Two World War II veterans went on the flight of a lifetime Wednesday in Lakeland.

For Col. William Brake, it’s been more than 60 years since he flew a B-17 Bomber. He flew 22 missions in the plane back in World War II. Today, the 94-year old retired U.S. Army Corps pilot got the chance to take one more flight.

Lt. Col. George Hardy served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman.
Lt. Col. George Hardy served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman.

“It’s so good to see the 17 again,” Col. Brake said. “It was home for a long time.”

Col. Brake couldn’t afford to pay a couple hundred dollars to take a ride in the plane, so the B-17 Texas Raiders decided to help him out and donate the ride.

He wasn’t the only veteran to take off from the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport runway on the special flight.

Lt. Col. George Hardy served in World War II as a Tuskegee Airman, flying escort for B-17 planes. On Wednesday he got to fly on the B-17, the first time he’s ever flown in the type of plane he used to protect during WWII.

“We were escorts. If the German fighters came in, we would intercept them and shoot them down,” Hardy said. “That meant so much to me back in those days.”
vet flies 2

The fully restored B-17 Flying Fortress took off with the two veterans during the afternoon.

“During World War II, the B-17 Flying Fortress and P-51 Mustang shared a bond like no other. The P-51’s skilled pilots provided desperately needed protection of B-17 bombers during their raids over Europe,” they explained.

And on Wednesday these two pilots shared a flight once again, this time in the same plane. “It takes you back many days. But, it’s harder for us to get into these things now,” Col. Hardy said with a laugh after the flight.

The plane will be on display all week at the Sun -N- Fun International Fly-In & Expo at the Lakeland airport.

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