Veterans get once-in-a-lifetime experience flying in rare World War II bombers

Norbert Seifert, a World War II Navy Air Corp Pilot, flies in a B-24 bomber Friday over Oregon as part of the "Wings of Freedom Tour." (KATU Photo)

The "Wings of Freedom Tour" is happening Father’s Day weekend at the Aurora Airport.

The tour is put on by the Collings Foundation, which flies historic World War II planes and bombers across the nation.

The event is open to anyone but is greatly adored by World War II veterans of all types.

"Well, in action it would be very stressful, l I’m sure,” Nick Ostoja, a Word War II Navy veteran, said when talking about those who fought inside bomber planes like B-24s and B-17s.

Ostoja and his son got to fly inside a B-25 from Corvallis to Aurora.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Ostoja said before boarding the bomber.

During his time in the war, Ostoja helped establish a Naval air station in Maui. As a member of the Navy, he'd never flown in the types of bombers offered as a part of the tour.

After he landed, he was elated.

“Something I’m never going to experience again,” Ostoja said. “It was very good -- just great.”

In front of him in the air was Norbert Seifert, a World War II Navy Air Corp Pilot. He also had never flown in a bomber like a B-24, B-25 or B-17, but he did fly large planes.

"The PV was a twin engine, and the R4s and 5s were four engine,” Seifert said.

Seifert was flying alongside his son, who is also a veteran. They were tucked into the back half of a B-24. That B-24 is the last B-24 still flying. There were more than 18,000 produced for the war.

“Everything I expected,” Seifert said. “Very good flight.”

For both Seifert and Ostoja, being inside the planes was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but there are veterans who come to the tour who know the planes well.

“I had very good eyesight. I think that was one reason. I still don't wear glasses,” Carl Gustafson, who flew inside B-24 bombers during the war and was the nose turret gunner, said.

He experience includes, “27 missions and getting shot down a couple times,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson flew over Germany. He says his main job was to knock out the German’s oil.

“We knocked out enough of their oil, they didn't have any fuel for the aircrafts' tanks or anything else,” Gustafson said. “That's why they did the Battle of the Bulge.”

He watched as other veterans, who’d never experienced anything like that, take off in the historic planes. When those veterans landed, they certainly had an understanding of what it was like for fighters like Gustafson.

“We got to sit in the nose, too. That was something,” Ostoja said. “You could see, let me tell ya, plenty.”

The "Wings of Freedom" tour will be in Aurora until June 17, and it's open to the public. It's $15 to walk inside the historic planes.

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