The aircraft is completely restored, but aside from a few 21st-century upgrades in the cockpit, hasn't been "softened up"... you sit in the standard-issue jump seats and there are plenty of head-knockers as you move from compartment to compartment. In what was SOP for the B-17, the radio compartment hatch was removed during flight and you can stick your head right out in the gale—cruise speed is about 180 mph. As soon as the gear were up, we got a thumbs-up to un-belt and wander around, and I made my way across the bomb bay catwalk, and down into the nose gunner's position. Sitting in that seat with the Plexiglas wrapped back behind you, the vent open and the wind blowing in your face at a hundred miles an hour was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Having a friendly, grizzled old veteran ask you "How'd you like to ride this fucker all the way to Berlin?" puts it into context.
That was the best part. They take up ten people at a time, and on my flight (and in the other flight I saw land), better than half were WW2 vets, who in all likelihood hadn't stepped foot in that aircraft since they came home in '45. I was expecting that, and was also expecting a certain somberness, a sense of nostalgia—even reverence—from them. But no, they're all (to the last one) grinning from ear to ear, like they'd just been reunited with an old friend.
And given the Flying Fortress's reputation for bringing its crew home, that's probably not far off the mark.
( All the day's photos, including the Goodyear blimp buzzing the tower )