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Rarest WWII planes touchdown in Rochester

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- A piece of World War II (WWII) history is making a stop in southeast Minnesota this week and it's part of the Commemorative Air Force AirPower History Tour.

The Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 Squadron is based in Dallas Texas and members of the organization volunteer their time to do these tours, many of which have some sort of family connection to that era.

"We have one of two B-29 that are still left in the world and we also have the only flying B-24," said Commemorative Air Force B-29/B-24 Squadron Member Cheryl Hilvert. "And for any WWII or history enthusiasts, they will know that those were very, very significant airplanes in the WWII era."

"They are a challenge to fly," said B-24 Co-Pilot Jeremy Lashbrook. "We're looking at 1930's technology and it's a very big aircraft, has very big controls. The controls for the pilots, there are big movements to make them work and sometimes it takes a lot of muscle to fly the airplane."

Starting Wednesday, people will be able tour the inside of "FiFi" the B-29 Superfortress and "Diamond Lil" the B-24 Liberator, in addition to checking out two smaller training aircrafts that pilots would use back in the day.

You could even pay to take a ride in one of the planes.

"Every passenger flight is a special experience for us," Lashbrook said. "I can say I pretty much remember just about all of them because it's the people that make this special."

Hilvert says the mission of the Commemerative Air Force is to honor the young men who flew these planes and the families who stayed behind and built the planes.

"They're in awe," B-29 Flight Engineer Fernando Daleccio said. "They're in total awe. You know the best ones are the ones when we ask if they have any connection to a military member in WWII, and we have had daughters of navigators sit at the table and fly the same chair that their fathers flew in. Just to see their expressions."

The WWII aircrafts will be on display to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rochester General Aviation Airport.

For more information like ticket cost and where to register to ride on one of the bombers, click here.

Sarah Gannon

Sarah Gannon

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