100-year-old veteran from Kansas rides B-29 for first time since leaving the Army

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TOPEKA (KSNT) – A local 100-year-old bombardier got the chance to step onto a B-29 super fortress plane Thursday for the first time since he left the Army.

Thomas Kugler, a Pennsylvania native, enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 20. That’s what brought him to Kansas. He now resides in Lawrence.

As planes make their way to the Thunder Over the Heartland Air Show in Topeka, Kugler was given the chance to ride one of the planes created during wartime. The ‘Doc’ B-29 never went to war. Similarly, Kugler trained in Platt and Hays, but never saw combat.

The B-29 he stepped on is one of the only two remaining with the ability to fly. According to Kugler, he trained on mostly B-17 and B-24 aircrafts, but he did train on a B-29 a handful of times. All of these bomber super fortresses have a unique sensation that he said he had been chasing for the last several decades.

“When we hit the runway and I knew when he throttled up and I got the rumble of the wheels and then I felt the airplane lift oh, I enjoyed that, it was exciting,” Kugler said.

As the plane landed, he turned to the person sitting next to him and said it was just how he remembered.

“I missed that feeling. I never got it in a commercial airplane but I had it in this airplane,” Kugler said. “It was better than I remembered it.”

Kugler will celebrate his 101st birthday in August. Click here for information about the super fortress.

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