Vintage B-17 bomber to visit Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum
Crew offering flights, tours inside WWII American bomber
The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton is offering a chance to get up close and personal with one of World War II's iconic American bombers, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
The museum is hosting the 1940s-era aircraft, nicknamed the Sentimental Journey, from June 30 to July 6. Visitors will have an opportunity to tour the inside of the plane, and a limited number of tickets are also being sold for flights.
It's the plane's second appearance in Hamilton, and this year's visit is part of a North American tour that runs until October.
"She's fully restored to how she would have looked [in WWII] and beautifully maintained - we're really proud to be able to bring her to Hamilton again," says crew member Laz Tollas.
The vintage four-engine B-17G bomber is owned by the Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving aviation history. The Sentimental Journey is based at Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz.
About 12,000 B-17s were built between 1935 and the late 1940s, but only 10 are still flying. The CAF's B-17G is one of the few that has been returned to its original wartime condition.
One of the workhorses of the U.S. Air Force in WWII, the unpressurized Flying Fortress played a major role in the battles for Europe, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. The 36,000-pound B-17G could carry nearly 30,000 pounds of fuel, crew, ammunition and bombs.
The Sentimental Journey was delivered to the U.S. Air Force in March 1945, and went into service in the Pacific region.
After the war it did a number of jobs, Tollas says, ranging from photo-mapping the Pacific, to acting as the "mother ship" for a group of remote-controlled B-17s that measured blast and thermal effects from atomic bomb tests.
The Sentimental Journey also did search-and-rescue work after it was decommissioned from the military, and was used to fight forest fires in California.
It was bought by the CAF in 1978, which spent seven years returning the Sentimental Journey to its original WWII configuration, complete with machine gun turrets and working bomb bay doors. To commemorate the era when it was in military service, the plane's nose art is a painting of pinup girl Betty Grable.
The Sentimental Journey arrives at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton on Monday afternoon, and will go on display July 1. The public can see the plane between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily until July 6 as part of the museum's regular admission fee.
The CAF is selling tickets to tour the inside of the plane while it's at the museum. The proceeds from the $5-per-person fee will go towards the continuing maintenance and operation costs of the aircraft.
"It's a donation we ask for to help keep this aircraft in top condition," says Tollas.
The CAF will also be selling a limited number of tickets for flights on the B-17. Starting July 4 there will be two mid-morning half-hour flights and two more in the mid-afternoon, taking eight passengers each. The aircraft will be back on display at the museum each day when it isn't in the air.
"They're low-altitude flights, it's a spectacular view," says Tollas.
The seats in the waist and radio room area of the B-17 are $425 US, and the two seats in the nose where the bombardier and navigator would sit are $850 US each. They can be booked by calling 587-338-8817.