© Herald photo by Terry Munro
Daily Herald managing editor Perry Bergson can be seen to the right in the nose of the B-17 Flying Fortress on Monday.
It takes a while for the grin to wash off after you’ve been up in Sentimental Journey.
The B-17 Flying Fortress is currently visiting the city for a few days and I received the chance to go up for the first flight in Prince Albert.
Even better, I sat in the nose of the plane.
It’s an unforgettable way to fly.
You climb up a ladder and make your way through a small door to your left. The plexiglass nose of the plane allows you a view that you’ve never had before while a series of small windows provides a line of sight just in front of the propellers.
There are two chairs. One is in the cone and has the unblemished sightlines that would have allowed the gunner to see and shoot at attacking fighter planes.
Just behind, and slightly lower, the other chair sits at a small desk that would allow the bombadier to plot when the bombs would fall.
An impressive array of dials and gauges plot speed and height. A small red bulb reads BOMB RELEASE, while one beside it reads LAMP ON BOMB DOORS OPEN.
Gregory Sproat had the front seat as our adventure began.
We taxied to the far end of the runway and then did a U-turn. We sat there for what seemed like minutes but it was likely just seconds.
The four giant engines roared to life and you could instantly feel the power. A moment later we began to move.
I’ve often noticed the sensation after takeoff when the plane seems to drop a few feet. It can be unnerving.
It didn’t happen in Sentimental Journey. The big bomber’s flight felt soft and smooth.
Oh, and noisy.
A crew member had handed the two of us ear plugs before we took off and now I understood why.
You’re in a metal tube right beside four 1,200-horsepower engines, each of which has nine cylinders. It’s like sitting in a tiny garden shed with 600 lawn mowers running on the outside.
The dirty little non-secret that the volunteer crew chuckle about is that Douglas actually manufactured Sentimental Journey.
Boeing’s plants were running at full capacity so Douglas and Lockheed subsidiary Vega pitched in to build them as well.
Sentimental Journey was built in the spring of 1944 but didn’t fly to the Pacific Theatre until 1945. It was only used for reconnaissance during the war, part of the reason it survived in such terrific shape.
The nose is reasonably spacious, although you can imagine that they would probably prefer if the wartime gunners had been a little shorter than my six feet.
I understand that the ball turret gunner actually had to be smaller than 5’4 because the space was so tight.
The 20-minute trip over the city and surrounding area ends far too quickly. It’s tough to take in everything on the inside and the outside, although I did find time to snap 250 pictures. You’ll see more of them on Wednesday’s Spotlight page and in a slideshow at paherald.sk.ca when I find time to sort and load them.
As I wrote in my column in Monday’s Daily Herald, I’ve always been fascinated by warplanes, particularly from World War Two. If you share my fascination, you can go up in Sentimental Journey too.
It isn’t cheap but keeping a nearly 70-year-old heavy bomber in the air is an expensive proposition so nobody is getting rich here.
Tickets range from $900 for a guaranteed spot in the nose or $450 for a spot in the radio room/waist gunners position. Flights are available Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
To book a spot, call 587-338-8817.
There is a cheaper way to see the old warbird.
Tours are available for a $5 donation between noon and 7 p.m. at the airport each day.
The plane will be here until it leaves for Bismarck, N.D., on Friday morning. Don’t miss it.