“Sentimental Journey” is a beautifully restored Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress. Operated by the Commemorative Air Force in Mesa Arizona and it’s been a favorite at airshows around the country. At airshows she attends, guest can purchase rides or take a tour through the aircraft. Classified as a heavy bomber by the Army Air Force during World War II the G model of the B-17 can be easily identified by its distinctive remotely operated chin turret. Over 8,600 B-17G’s were built during the 2nd world war. This one was built by the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1944 and upon completion was assigned to the pacific theater of operations. For several years after the war it was a photo reconnaissance aircraft in the pacific. It was then converted to a remotely operated drone for monitoring of A-bomb testing in the pacific Atolls. Afterwards, it ended its military career and was retired to Davis Monthan air force base for salvage. Before being scraped, it was purchased by a private company, converted into a water tanker and started a new career as a fire bomber. In 1978 she was donated to the Commemorative Air Force in Mesa Arizona. They restored it to its original B-17G configuration and the restoration project was completed in 1985. Instead of OD green paint it was given a bare aluminum finish. The nose was painted with a pinup of Betty Grable and the aircraft was named “Sentimental Journey”. To see where “Sentimental Journey” is today, go to flightaware.com and type in her registration N9323Z.
Boeing B-17G Specifications:
Crew of 10
Armament 13 .50 caliber Browning M-2 machine guns
Maximum bomb load 8,000 lbs
Powered by four Wright Cyclone R-1820-97 supercharged radial engines 1,200 horse power each
TAS at 25,000 ft. 287 mph
Maximum takeoff weight 64,500 lbs.
Service ceiling 35,600 ft.
Range 3,750 miles with Bomb bay tanks
Fuel 2,780 gallons/burn 200 gal hour
The Pima Air and Space museum has over 300 aircraft on display at its 120-acre campus in Tucson, Arizona. One of the world’s largest aviation museums, Pima is also the world’s largest privately funded aviation museum. It receives no government funding and much of the restoration work is done by volunteers. It is located adjacent to Davis Monthan Air Force Base which is home to the 309th Aerospace maintenance regeneration group (AMARG). Davis-Monthan is the world’s largest aircraft restoration and storage center and the only aircraft storage center for the US Government. It is also home to over eighty A-10 Thunderbolts (Warthog) ground attack aircraft. During our visit it seemed like every five minutes another flight of A-10s made the pattern and passed over the museum. As an aviation enthusiast this actually added to the experience.
Air Force One Douglas VC-118A Liftmaster
Convair B-36 Peacemaker
At Pima, docent-led walking and tram tours are available. The tram tour takes about an hour and was well worth the six dollar ticket. Docents are retired aviators and well versed in the history and facts surrounding these aircraft. Our guide was a retired Air Force pilot who had actually flown one of the aircraft on display. A few of the aircraft you’ll see are an SR-71 Blackbird, Convair B-36 Peacemaker, B-52 Stratofortress, and a Convair B-58 hustler.
To see the Davis-Monthan “boneyard” a guided bus tour is available. For seven dollars this tour takes visitors from the Pima Museum for an hour long tour in the “boneyard”. The tour takes you through an active Air Force base therefore visitors are required to have a government issued picture ID. Approximately 4,000 aircraft are in storage here. Most are either in storage for use at a later time, waiting to be recycled, or providing parts to aircraft that are currently being used. On the tour you can see row after row of once front line aircraft that for one reason or another are being slowly disassembled to keep other aircraft flying. One thing that stands out is the vinyl covering that’s used to cover the cockpits and other areas of the aircraft. This is done to reflect the sun and keep the temperature in the aircraft lower to protect its more sensitive components. If you have the time both tours are well worth doing and a fantastic deal for the price.