An unforgettable experience

Published 10:16 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Suffolk Executive Airport delivers some great benefits and a few surprising experiences to folks in the city. In addition to raising tax revenue from usage fees and fuel charges, the airport also hosts a popular skydiving company and has been the base for various high-adrenaline, once-in-a-lifetime experiences brought to the city over the years. Warbird flights, dogfights, helicopter tours and more have all given folks in Suffolk a chance to get their blood pumping and their imagination churning. An annual fly-in gives visitors a chance to get up close and personal with all manner of aircraft.

But seldom do Suffolk residents get the opportunity they have for the remainder of this week and weekend. A visit to the Suffolk airport by a restored World War II B-17 bomber, the “Sentimental Journey,” will give visitors a chance to step back in time to the 1930s and 1940s, a time when America’s factories were turning out thousands of the most advanced bombers in the world in an effort to win the war on its separate theaters in Europe and the Pacific.

About half of the more than 12,000 B-17 Flying Fortresses that were built were lost in combat or accidents, and many Americans fell with their great airplanes. But the Flying Fortress had a reputation for being tough, and there are any number of stories about one of the bombers being shot up during a sortie and still returning its crew to base.

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The Sentimental Journey has had a long, colorful career. It was assigned to the Pacific theater during the war, and later used as a photo mapping plane and air-sea rescue craft. During the 1950s, it was converted and used as an unmanned, radio-controlled drone to measure the effects of nuclear bombs during tests. After becoming a civilian aircraft from 1959, it spent 18 years fighting forest fires around the country. It was donated to the Commemorative Air Force in 1978.

That group has brought the aircraft to Suffolk for people to get a look at it. The plane and its handlers will be around until Monday, when they fly away to Texas. Until then, anyone interested in touring the craft can do so for just $5. Assuming the weather cooperates, 45-minute flights will be available during the weekend, at a cost of $425 to sit in the rear and $850 to sit in the glassed-in nose.

It’s another unforgettable experience at the Suffolk Executive Airport. Go out and have a look.