FAIRFIELD - One of only a handful of B-17 heavy bombers still flying took to the air on Thursday for a special trip with some true VIPs.

There were once more than 12,000 B-17 heavy bombers, the plane symbolic of the air war in Europe during World War II.

"Aluminum Overcast," one of the the classic warbirds, called "Flying Fortresses" by those who flew them, took to the skies over Essex County with two veteran B-17 crewmen aboard.

"You get a funny feeling in your stomach, in the pit of your stomach," says B-17 radio operator George Prezioso. "It's a happy feeling and it's a scary feeling."

The B-17 carried a crew of 10, flying at altitudes of more than 30,000 feet. The crew members were required to participate in 25 missions before earning a ticket home.

"The missions lasted 8, 9, 10 hours, at 30 degrees below zero,” says World War II historian Al Parisi. "You're not only fighting the enemy but the elements. They were 19, 20 year-old kids and what they were called on to do was just mind-boggling."

"You'd come back with half a tail, half a wing. You'd still come back," says B-17 navigator Bernard Gottheim. "It's a good plane, it's a beautiful plane. Boeing did a terrific job."

This B-17 is at Essex County Airport in Fairfield all weekend and heading to Mercer County on Tuesday and Wednesday.