The Douglas DC-3 and the Boeing B-17 are two of the most iconic airplanes ever built. Both aircraft celebrated their 75th anniversary at AirVenture this year.
The DC-3s and the military variant C-47s arrived en masse, under the guise of the “The Last Time,” a flight organized by Herpa DC-3 owner and pilot Dan Gryder. According to Gryder, the purpose of the flight was to reunite the airplanes and the people who love them. With the help of several volunteers, the massive twin-engine taildraggers staged at Whiteside County Airport (SQI) in Rock Falls, Ill., on July 26 and made a mass arrival at Wittman Field (OSH) in Oshkosh on opening day of AirVenture. The formation, 23 airplanes in all, was the largest formation of these airplanes since World War II. The DC-3 is still in use today as a cargo hauler, passenger transport and show airplane.
The B-17 is a much more rare bird, with only about 13 still in airworthy condition today. Three were able to make the show this year. It was a moving sight for many when “Thunderbird,” “Texas Raiders” and “Aluminum Overcast” flew over the grounds in formation. One veteran remarked that the sight was bittersweet, saying he recalled when the sky was so full of these airplanes they seemed to block out the sun, and it made him sad to know that just a handful of them remain airworthy today.