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Restored B-17 coming to DeKalb airport

The fully-restored B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" arrives at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport on Monday, August 18, 2008.
The fully-restored B-17 bomber "Sentimental Journey" arrives at the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport on Monday, August 18, 2008.

DeKALB – To Fred DeWitt, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress looks like a dragon when it's about to take off.

"Every time we start this plane back up, the hair stands up on the back of my neck," said DeWitt, who has piloted the World War II-era plane for nearly 20 years. "It's totally different from anything we do in the modern world."

Local residents will have the opportunity to check out the B-17 Flying Fortress during its weeklong stay at DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport. The plane will be available for public viewing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from July 22 to July 28.

People can see the exterior of the airplane and photograph it for free. A tour of the inside of the plane costs $5, while those who pay $425 can fly in it.

The B-17 Bomber is named "Sentimental Journey," after the song performed by Doris Day in 1945. Laura Scholl, a volunteer public outreach coordinator with the nonprofit organization Commemorative Air Force that honors American military aviation, said the name is apt.

"She was renamed after we restored her – Sentimental Journey seem to fit it best," Scholl said. "It's from the right era and it has the right sentiment."

The Sentimental Journey is an authentic World War II plane, said DeWitt and Scholl. The plane was built in 1945, and used primarily in the war's Pacific theater, although it was never used in combat, DeWitt said.

After the war, the plane became what was called a "drone mothership." DeWitt said pilots would control remote airplanes from inside the B-17. It was also used to put out large forest fires in the western United States.

DeWitt said the plane was restored to its original military specifications, including dummy bullets in all of the .50-caliber machine guns.

"It's one of the best-looking planes that is still flying today," DeWitt said.

A commercial pilot for American Airlines who lives in Sycamore, DeWitt has been flying with the Commemorative Air Force since 1989. He called the bomber a "flying museum," and has seen the faces of former B-17 pilots light up as they sit in the plane.

"People don't realize what they had to go through ... in an airplane like this.
DeWitt said. "It brings back memories of people. It brings back history."


What: Public viewing of the World War B-17 Bomber "Sentimental Journey"

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 22 to July 28.

Where: DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport, 3232 Pleasant St., DeKalb

How much:
• Exterior viewing of the plane and pictures: FREE
• Tour of the inside of the plane: $5
• Plane ride: $425

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