John Roberts has always loved old planes.
He loved the engine that sounded like like a cross between a motorboat and a sports car. He even loved the smell of the oil. After all, he grew up around planes. Roberts remembered playing with a model airplane from World War II.
Years later, Roberts left behind the toys for the real thing. Roberts is part of the flight crew for a B-25 Mitchell bomber, but everyone calls the plane “Maid in the Shade.”
Roberts flies around the country educating people about life during WWII for a few weeks starting in June as part of Arizona Commemorative Air Force, or the Ghost Squadron.
“The excitement never stops,” Roberts said as the B-25 pulled up to the Enid Woodring Regional Airport terminal. This year marked Roberts’ seventh year volunteering with the squadron. He said he has flown the aircraft a few times.
Roberts and the squadron all volunteer to keep history alive. They think it’s important to preserve the plane for veterans. They want to teach children what it means to sacrifice for their country. Roberts said the job seemed perfect for him.
“My father signed up for the war when he was 17,” Roberts said. His uncles also fought in WWII with the Army Air Forces.
“These kids were flying planes and shooting machine guns with only a thin layer of plexiglass between them and the enemy,” Roberts said. “That’s what they were — kids.”
Roberts could only imagine what it must have been like for those brave veterans thousands of feet in the air, staring death in the face and knowing they might not make it home.
“Once you have a few of those near-death experiences, it takes you back to what you believe in — back to Jesus Christ,” Roberts said.
“It actually did fly back in WWII,” co-pilot Ed Veovich said of “Maid in the Shade.” He said it’s important to preserve the aircraft because there are only 34 B-25’s still flying today.
“There is nothing like seeing one of these planes actually flying,” Roberts said. “It’s nothing like the museum.”
“Smaller cities, like Enid, don’t get to see these planes like people in big cities,” Veovich said. He said everyone deserves a chance to see one of these historical planes.
The B-25 airplane tours and rides on “Maid in the Shade” are available at Woodring through Sunday. Tours cost $10 per person, or $20 for a family of four. They are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 2-6 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
Rides on the plane cost $325 for a waist compartment seat (the seat toward the back of the plane) or $650 for a seat in the flight deck jump seat (toward the nose of the plane). Flights are available 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday through Sunday.