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Bomber on Sentimental Journey renews old memories

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Troy Shantz

The vintage B17 bomber that visited Sarnia last week took some local veterans down memory lane and into the wild blue yonder.

“I’ve been flying for 55 years, just small planes, but that was different,” said Second World War vet John Percival, who went for a spin on June 19.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

Second World War veteran John Percival exits Sentimental Journey after a brief flight over the city on June 19. Percival has been flying planes since the 1950s, but had never flown in a B17 before. “That was something that I’ll always remember,” he said. Troy Shantz
Second World War veteran John Percival exits Sentimental Journey after a brief flight over the city on June 19. Percival has been flying planes since the 1950s, but had never flown in a B17 before. “That was something that I’ll always remember,” he said.
Troy Shantz

“Sentimental Journey,” built in 1944, is one of only ten B17 bombers still flying. Based in Arizona and part of the Commemorative Air Force, the aircraft offered visitors to Chris Hadfield Airport a glimpse into the tough conditions that its crews experienced.

Percival served in the Royal Canadian Regiment during the war and was part of the force that liberated The Netherlands. He had heard the deep rumbling engines of bombers before.

“We were crossing over … into France and we were laying along the ditch and the sky was black with bombers headed to Germany,” he recalled.

“We saw a lot of them.”

The arrival of Sentimental Journey in Sarnia also coincided with a key moment of the war. On June 24-25 of 1944, the Royal Air Force launched more than 1,000 planes against the Nazis in the conflict’s largest air campaign.

The plane was stationed at Chris Hadfield Airport for a week of flights, events and festivities, including a 1940s-style swing dance and dinner.

The event was organized by Huron Flight Centre with proceeds supporting Pathways Health Centre for Children.

Some 13,000 of the planes were produced between 1936 and 1945. Sentimental Journey is one of fewer than 10 still flying. Troy Shantz
Some 13,000 of the planes were produced between 1936 and 1945. Sentimental Journey is one of fewer than 10 still flying.
Troy Shantz
An aerial view of Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport reveals the 104-foot wingspan of the "Flying Fortress" bomber. Drone photo, courtesy of David Cooke, inskyphoto.com
An aerial view of Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport reveals the 104-foot wingspan of the “Flying Fortress” bomber.
Drone photo, courtesy of David Cooke, inskyphoto.com
Sentimental Journey crewmember David Oliver watches as one of its 1,200 horsepower engines roars to life. The vintage bomber can remain in the air for seven and a half hours while consuming 1,400 gallons of fuel. Troy Shantz
Sentimental Journey crewmember David Oliver watches as one of its 1,200 horsepower engines roars to life. The vintage bomber can remain in the air for seven and a half hours while consuming 1,400 gallons of fuel.
Troy Shantz

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