Flying through memories

Staring at the gleaming, silver B-25 Mitchell bomber on the tarmac at Penticton Regional Airport, tears welled up in Hank Siemen’s eyes

An aerial view of the Maid in the Shade B-25 Mitchell bomber as it flies over the rural property on the west side of Okanagan Lake Monday. (Below) Hank Siemens of Okanagan Falls

Staring at the gleaming, silver B-25 Mitchell bomber on the tarmac at Penticton Regional Airport Monday, tears welled up in Hank Siemen’s eyes as memories came flooding back.

For the 85-year-old Okanagan Falls resident it was like seeing an old friend for the first time in more than 50 years.

“My God, you look so good,” whispered Siemens who flew and survived many military missions aboard a B-25 as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Going closer to the aircraft, he reached up and touched the large propeller blade and gently leaned over and kissed it.

“You look so good,” he repeated to himself.

When asked what went through his mind after seeing the plane for the first time in so many years, Siemens replied: “I had to swallow hard. I would be the biggest liar in the world if I said I didn’t miss it, I really do.”

He still vividly recalls his first flight, hitching a ride from Saskatoon to Edmonton.

“I got to ride in the greenhouse (glassed-in nose turret) and it was  really cold, especially in winter,” he said.

Nicknamed the Maid in the Shade, this particular aircraft had her bullet wounds healed and was lovingly restored over a 28-year period by the Arizona-based Commemorative Air Force (CAF).

The B-25 is currently on a swing through Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest and another CAF aircraft, a B-17 bomber is on an eastern tour.

The visit is a co-operative effort on the part of the CAF and the Penticton Flying Club, which offers a variety of programs to encourage flight as a recreational past time.

Or in the words of club president Larry Taylor, “flying is not just for rich people.”

The Maid is in Penticton until Sunday after arriving Monday from Cranbrook as part of the CAF’s tribute to veterans, and to educate young people about war.

Parked in the Demel Aircraft lot, the general public can (for a fee) tour the plane and even go for a (very) exhilarating flight in the aft section or up front and personal with pilots Jerry Briggs and Spike McLane.

Following her arrival in Penticton, the first order of business was a media and VIP flight over the city, north over Okanagan Lake to Summerland with a slight deviation through the east side hills on the return trip to the airport.

Apart from the thrill of being able to look over the shoulders of the pilots as they fly the plane, those riding in the front section have the opportunity to negotiate a three-metre, narrow metal tube to the warbird’s nose turret.

Complete with cannon and ammunition (not live), experiencing the 50-degree turns from the glass-enclosed aerial venue is like nothing else. Like most military aircraft, passenger comfort is quite a ways down the priority list which includes climbing a ladder to get inside.

Noise and smoke comes from each of the two large engines as the large propellers begin to turn individually and the various unusual noises during flight eventually fade into the background as the thrill of the ride takes over.

All too soon it  is over and the Maid glides to a picture perfect landing on the runway.

“It was really an eye opener,” said Taylor who had an upfront seat for the flight.

“It’s a window into what the fellows who flew these experienced and lived with when they were in active service and not just for 20 minutes at a time.”

Those wishing to cross this one off the bucket list have until Sunday.

For reservations call 780-263-1425 or e-mail

Rides can also be purchased on site along with souvenirs of the visit.

The cost is $395 US for waist gunner and $650 US for flight deck.



Just Posted

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

Rollover closes road

No serious injuries reported in a rollover off South Main in Penticton

Raven story shines light at Children’s Showcase

Season opener of the Children’s Showcase in Penticton

Student leadership conference hits home

Nearly 500 Grade 5 students taking part in leadership conference in Penticton

Penticton dancers headed to Germany for world championship

Penticton dancers representing Canada at World Dance Championships

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

UBC medical students learn to care for Indigenous people

Students in health-related studies to take course, workshop to help better serve Aboriginal people

Dorsett has 2 goals, assist in Canucks’ 4-2 win over Sabres

‘It was a real good hockey game by our group,’ Canucks coach Travis Green said.

Berry disappointed: Bear tries to eat fake fruit on woman’s door wreath

A Winnipeg woman has taken her berry-embellished wreath down, after a hungry bear visited her porch

B.C. search groups mobilize for missing mushroom picker

Searchers from across the province look for Frances Brown who has been missing since Oct. 14.

Have you heard about Black Press scholarships?

Up to 37 scholarships are awarded each year to students throughout British Columbia

Most Read