B-17G Flying Fortress continues Sentimental Journey
Sgt. Jonathan W. Thomas,
16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment:
Thousands of metal rivets hold together its gun-laden, silver body as the roar of its engines gives witnesses an indication of its destructive potential, but it is the crew and admirers who keep it alive. It is the B-17G Flying Fortress and goes by the name of Sentimental Journey.
The Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum, a travelling group of aviation enthusiasts, displayed the B-17G at the War Eagles Air Museum at the Doña Ana County Airport Oct. 1-4, but unlike many aircraft displays, Sentimental Journey is a fully-operational, flying history lesson.
“I call it my 50,000-pound Super Coupe. If you got it going in the right direction and at the right speed it will just do whatever you want,” said Mel Tiensvold, pilot-in-command of the Sentimental Journey. “If you have it going the wrong way it’s real hard to get back; it’s like a 50,000-pound dump-truck without power-steering.”
The Sentimental Journey is one of only a handful of operational B-17s still available to the public and is widely considered to be the most authentic restoration of its kind.
“You always take pride in your work,” said Troy Smith, flight crew chief of the Sentimental Journey. “When I get to meet veterans, we sit and cry together talking about our war stories and that makes you want to keep this thing maintained.”
In addition to its crew, Sentimental Journey’s admirers play a role in keeping the B-17 flying and maintaining its history.
“If we kept it in a museum a very limited number of people would see it, but by taking it out we do 60 cities a year and the veterans get to come out and see it,” said Shelby Bolke, Sentimental Journey historian and member of the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing. “We had one come out and he just put his hand on the star on the back and he just stood there, and I asked him if he wanted to go to his old crew position and he said he just came to say goodbye to the ghosts.”
The Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum has upcoming tours throughout Texas, including San Antonio, San Angelo and Midland, and will continue showing the Sentimental Journey for as long as it will fly.
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