History meets the future at Lincoln Airport

These planes are nearing 100 years old, but they still manage to excite people young and old.

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – If you head to the Lincoln Airport through Sunday, it might feel like you’ve just taken a step back in time. Turns out, you can do a lot more than just take a step. You can be a part of history taking flight.

In 1942, a number of Boeing Stearman biplanes came off the assembly line. “During the war, they built about 10 thousand of these planes, with parts for two thousand more”, explains Stearman pilot Col. Phil Webb. Almost 80 years later, quite a few of those planes still exist, many still fly, and this particular one has flown to Lincoln, thanks to the Commemorative Air Force.

Don Boccaccio is tour leader for the CAF’s Airpower Tour. He says the group goes, “from location to location, and we try to remember the greatest generation because they’re the ones that flew these.”

The Airpower Squadron is based in Dallas, Texas. They’ve got stops in North Platte and Scottsbluff before they head back down south. That’s thousands of miles put on these ancient aircraft. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. But it’s also a labor of love. Everyone making the trip to Lincoln, and everywhere else, is a volunteer. Col. Webb sums the experience up: “It’s a very special thing.”

Half the fun is seeing, touring, and touching these living pieces of American history. Stepping up into the cockpit of a B-24 Liberator is certainly no everyday activity. To fly in one? That’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

As the tour’s leg in Lincoln continues, more flights on different planes will be available, but on the opening day, the Stearman is the plane of choice, and Phil Webb has a passenger on this trip. At just 13 years old, Bryce LeClair would have to hit that same mark 6 times over to equal the age of the plane he’s sitting in. But he made it up and back down again safely. Clearly, his 13th birthday present didn’t disappoint.

“Oh, it was absolutely great”, says Bryce. “You go up into the air, and all you see is… I don’t know how high you are, but everything looks tiny, tiny.”

Bryce says he’d like to be a pilot someday. It seems like he’s got the first taste of something others have known for centuries.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Webb recounts his favorite explanation of what makes flight so special: “Leonardo Da Vinci said it best. He said, ‘Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk with your face upturned, looking to the sky, because there you have been, and there you will always want to be’.”

Despite not saying those same words aloud, Bryce LeClair’s face sends the same message. If the old warbirds in Lincoln could talk, they’d likely share the same sentiment.

If you’d like to learn more about the CAF, check out the Lincoln page on their tour schedule.

Categories: Nebraska News, News