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B17 Bomber bringing a payload of ‘40s nostalgia

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Troy Shantz

If you hear the deafening roar of a Second World War bomber flying over Sarnia this summer, don’t be alarmed.

The B17 is coming in peace, and everyone is invited to Chris Hadfield Airport to get a close-up look at the piece of living history.

Aviation fans will be able to smell the exhaust and feel the vibration from the muscular engines of an aircraft fondly nicknamed “Sentimental Journey” — one of only ten B17 bombers in the world still flying — when it visits Sarnia for a week of festivities starting June 22.

“It’s really a rarity and such a special occasion to have this airplane coming here,” said Barry Riedy, one of the coordinators of the event.

“There’s been a lot of history around this airplane.”

The B17 was built in 1944 and flies out of Arizona as part of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), a company that offers a look into how the planes were made and the conditions their crews experienced.

On the evening of June 22, a Sentimental Swing Dance and Dinner Event will be held at Chris Hadfield Airport, recreating a wartime hangar dance. In keeping with the 1940s spirit, attendees are asked to dress in period fashion while dancing to classic swing music of the Toronto-based All Star Big Band.

The Sarnia Royal Canadian 403 Air Wing and Sarnia Legion will be in attendance, and proceeds will go to Pathways Health Centre for Children.

On June 23, also at the Airport, a less formal barbecue will be held in support of the Sarnia-based 44 Squadron Royal Canadian Air Cadets.

Throughout the week residents will have a chance to fly, for a fee, on the bomber, which was one of 13,000 produced between 1936 and 1945.

With a crew of 10, the four-engine B17s could stay airborne after sustaining damage and were responsible for dropping more bombs during the war than any aircraft.

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The arrival of Sentimental Journey also coincides with a key moment of the Second World War, Riedy said.

On June 24-25 of 1944, the Royal Air Force launched more than 1,000 planes against the Nazis in the war’s largest air campaign.

Many Canadian airmen crewed aboard B17s and Canada employed six of the planes for transatlantic mail flights.

“When you get up close and you experience an airplane and see it, touch it, feel it and smell it, it brings it to you in such a real way,” Riedy said.

“It’s very moving.”

For more about the Sentimental Journey or booking a ride, contact Huron Flight Centre at 519-542-6599, or email [email protected].


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