The American bomber that helped win World War Two visits Mt Vernon Outland Airport. The "Sentimental Journey" flies in tomorrow and will be at the airport through Monday on one leg of its 60-city summer tour. The flying museum is owned by the Commemorative Air Force.
The B-17 will be on display and available for tours, for a small fee, through the weekend. I plan on getting over there to tape an interview. I've been aboard the "Sentimental Journey" before during a previous visit years ago to the airport. My girlfriend, Pat, took a picture of me posing with a door gun and labeled it "A dream comes true." That is not correct. Those poor guys were in heated flight suits and they still froze. Flying a couple miles above the earth with the doors open will do that to you. I never envied those guys at all.
The B-17 Flying Fortress was the backbone of the 8th Air Force bombing campaign over Europe. It was loved by its crews because the B-17 got you home. The Japanese pilots who went up against the B-17 hated the aircraft because they couldn't be shot down.
That doesn't mean you couldn't get hurt. The 8th Air Force suffered the highest percentage of casualties in World War Two, higher even than the Marine units that landed on Japanese-held islands in the Pacific.
In fact, Martin Caidin related in his book on B-17s that there was one occasion where a B-17 landed in a grassy English field. Some people nearby gathered to greet the aircrew but although the plane came to rest, the engines didn't shut down. Finally, they reluctantly opened the hatch and went inside. The B-17 was entirely empty. The mystery was never solved.
Based on past experience, I'm certain that besides the tours, there will be a table with some souvenirs available. I bought a big metal B-17 pin when I visited before. If you have enough scratch, you can also get reserve a flight. Of course, if I had the $400-plus for that, I'd spend it on bills. But I would like to fly in a B-17. Tomorrow, I'll wea4r a white shirt with my blue tie, the one with all the World War Two aircraft on it.
Once the B-17s darkened the daylight skies above Germany. Now, only a handful of them remain...fewer of them actually operational. Maybe less than 10? This is one of them, lovingly maintained by the members of the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, once known as the Confederate Air Force.
The B-17 flies in tomorrow afternoon and will be available for tours through 6pm. After that, hours are 9am-6pm daily.