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Historic WWII planes land at Canadian Rockies International Airport

The B-17 Flying Fortress, open for public tours and flights, is one of five still in operation
Ground operations coordinator Gordie Johnsen stands in front of the B-17 Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey at the Canadian Rockies International Airport on July 10. Sentimental Journey is one of two historic WWII planes that are being showcased for public tours and flights this week. To schedule a ride, book online at or call 480-462-2992 (photo by Gillian Francis)

Two iconic Second World War planes, that are touring across Canada and America, touched down at Canadian Rockies International Airport on July 10.

The Boeing-17 Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey and the Boeing-25J Maid in the Shade will be stationed at the airport for a week. Locals can take a look inside the planes and go for a ride.

“We tour this aircraft for four and a half months every summer. It’s based in Mesa, Arizona at Falcon Field. For a fee, we give a living history flight experience. People just love it. They love to fly on this particular aircraft. This summer, this will be the only touring B-17 in North America,” said Airbase Arizona Flying Museum ground operations coordinator Gordie Johnsen, who is participating in the trip.

“Our objectives are to educate, inspire and honour the Greatest Generation,” he added.

Sentimental Journey was delivered to the U.S Army Air Forces for war service in 1944 to fly missions in the Pacific. After the war, it was used for training, testing and air-sea rescue missions, and eventually it was sold and used as a fire bomber.

In 1978, the aircraft was purchased by a Commemorative Air Force (CAF) member and donated to the newly formed Arizona CAF unit, where it was restored.

Sentimental Journey is one of five B-17 Flying Fortresses still in operation. It has a cruise speed of 160-miles-per-hour and a maximum altitude of 36,000 ft. The aircraft is unheated, so many crew members were subjected to frostbite when bombing at high altitudes.

Maid in the Shade flew 15 combat missions over Italy and Yugoslavia between Nov. 4 and Dec. 31, 1944 with the 319 Bomb Group, 437 Squadron based at Serragia Airbase, Corsica. It was primarily used to target railroad bridges. After the war, it was used for training, and then it was auctioned off and used as an insect sprayer. The Airbase Arizona Flying Museum acquired the model in 1981. It was decommissioned for 28-years while it was repaired, but it took to the skies again in 2009.

More broadly, the B-25 was used for high and low level bombing, strafing, photo-reconnaissance, and submarine patrol. It was a model used in the historic raid over Tokyo in 1942 by the Doolittle Raiders. It saw duty in every combat area flown by the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russian, Australian and U.S forces and it was possibly the most versatile aircraft of the Second World War.

The planes will be open for tours from July 11 to 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and July 14 to 16 from 2 to 6 p.m. Public flights are also available from July 14 to 16 in Sentimental Journey. To schedule a ride, book online at or call 480-462-2992.


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About the Author: Gillian Francis

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