94-year-old checks off B-17 on bucket list

FAIRBANKS — Urban Rahoi doesn’t just daydream, he forges ahead and makes his dreams come true, which pretty much sums up the 94-year-old’s attitude toward life.

On May 20, Rahoi scratched off another accomplishment on his bucket list — flying a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber as he did as an Army Air Corps pilot during World War II.

“It was one helluva an experience,” Rahoi said.

His dream flight began at the Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, Mich., between Detroit and Ann Arbor, which has one of 12 working B-17s worldwide available.

“Those guys when they saw me, I don’t think they had much hope,” Rahoi said.

Following a ground school session and watching another pilot take the B-17G “Yankee Lady” up, Rahoi climbed into the cockpit with Delta Airlines pilot Gene Wedekemper.

“I was quite amazed that he was as proficient and sharp as he was,” Wedekemper said.

“In this plane, you need a lot of taxi experience, and we practiced for 30 minutes, but once airborne, he was at the controls. He seemed to do a very nice job. I was impressed that he was able to be in the air for 45 minutes.”

Rahoi recalls the flight and landing as “pretty smooth sailing.”

“Two guys flew ahead of me and on their landings they bounced pretty good. I made two instrument approaches and when I greased that airplane on the ground you couldn’t tell it hit the ground,” Rahoi said.

“They invited me to come back at age 100.”

Rahoi earned his pilot’s license at age 16, and after arriving in Alaska in 1947, worked as a bush pilot for many years.

He continues to fly in Alaska.

Rahoi already is nailing down his next bucket list dream — to fly a B-25 bomber, a WWII two engine, medium-size bomber.


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