WWII Bomber Attracts Hundreds for Day of Aviation


By Loreto Cruz III

MARION -- A piece of aviation history was back on display at the Williamson County Airport Saturday.

"Diamond Lil" is one of only two WWII era B-24s still in existence and capable of flight.

"She's kind of special because she was the 18th built of 18,400 built during the war, and one of only twelve remaining on the planet," said Dr. Chaley Rodriguez. Rodriguez is a member of the Commemorative Air Force.

Rodriguez said the plane travels across the country, docking temporarily from place to place. He said that it's better served this way than in museums.

At the end of the month, it will return to where it spends most of its time in Texas. He said that the CAF has worked to make Marion somewhat of an oasis for the craft.

"To keep this plane up and running is extremely expensive," saaid Rodriguez. "Fuel and maintenance costs for a cross country trip, along with the pilots, can very quickly add up to more than $10,000." 

Rodriguez later said that without events like Saturday's, flight in the bomber would never be possible.

People got the chance on Saturday to go up into the plane and have a look around, along with several other activities that local aviators hosted.

The event started with a pancake breakfast in the morning. Young Eagles and Black Diamond Harley Davidson were also on site taking kids and the kids at heart up for a quick ride.

Rodriguez says he intends to find a way to return "Diamond Lil" to Southern Illinois in the coming years.



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