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

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 b25rc@azcaf.org.

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

Lightning in Kelowna, B.C. (Contributed)
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms overnight

Justin Fotherby,17, and Ashley McMillan, 17 have been chosen for an invitation only competition that sees 20 of Canada’s top swimmers per event vying for a spot at the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Submitted)
Penticton swimmers off to Olympic trials

The pair are eyeing a spot on the Canadian team heading to the Tokyo Olympics

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Renderings of what the skating rink could look like beside City Hall between Martin and Main in downtown Penticton. (Activate Penticton image)
Outdoor skating rink back at Penticton council

City staff recommend going forward with rink which could host 2022 BCHL’s 60th year celebration

Longtime SOWINS volunteer Diane Fru (far left) walks with members of her family as they Walk To End Abuse Sunday, June 13, 2021. South Okanagan Women In Needs Society (SOWINS) raised a record amount this year. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Walk to End Abuse in South Okanagan breaks fundraising record

More than $53,000 raised so far while the pandemic has increased need for SOWINS’ services

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

Most Read