Now, at Willow Run Airport, I'm about to find out. Even stepping into the back of the silver, seventy-four-foot-long B-17 heavy bomber and climbing past the mounted machine guns over the narrow gangway above the open bomb bay, through the cockpit, and then crawling up into the nose is a thrill.
Then the plane's four huge engines start one by one and the sound inside grows to a sustained roar. As the B-17 taxis down the runway, the past becomes overwhelmingly present. And when the Yankee Lady takes off into the clear afternoon sky, the trip rises to a whole new level of excitement--half a mile up, to be exact--where the view from the plane's transparent nose goes on forever.
We bank left and head west over M-14. First Domino's Farms slides by on our left, and then downtown Ann Arbor comes into full view, the afternoon sun glinting off the Dahlmann Campus Inn and Tower Plaza. As we cruise up the Huron at a leisurely 160 miles per hour, I can see the canoes and sailboats on Barton Pond with amazing clarity.
To give someone else a turn at this spectacular view, I climb back past volunteer pilot Paul Scholl and co-pilot Grant Schwartz and across the gangway above the now-closed bomb bay door. In the plane's waist I meet my host, Dennis Norton, a founding member of the Yankee Air Museum.