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Rare warplanes land in Chico, bringing back memories for veterans

Two rare planes from World War II are in Chico.

Posted: Aug 14, 2019 8:06 PM
Updated: Aug 15, 2019 12:04 AM

CHICO, Calif. - Two rare planes from World War ll are in Chico.

The B-17 is named, “Sentimental Journey,” in honor of the many missions she flew, and the mark she left behind on countless service men and women. The smaller B-25 goes by the name, “Maid in the Shade.” Boeing built both war birds in 1944. 

Sentimental Journey notably boasts an illustration of actress Betty Grable on its nose. Grable was the most popular pin-up girl at the time of the war. Sentimental Journey was assigned to fly in the Pacific during the war for anti-submarine and photo reconnaissance missions.  

As you go into the cockpit of the B-17, the walkway narrows and, as Commemorative Air Force Loadmaster Mike Willoughby explains, the planes "were not built for comfort, they were built for purpose." The plane has a 103 foot wingspan and weighs roughly 36,000 pounds. Because of its durability, a B-17 was also called a Flying Fortress. 

Maid in the Shade has a 67 foot wingspan. She flew fifteen missions to northern Italy and western Yugoslavia during the second world war. She got her name because much of her restoration took place in the shade of a hangar.

Signatures and messages are marked beneath the bomb bay doors of the planes. The notes, many scrawled in marker, were left behind by visiting veterans who flew the planes years ago.

"We can see the [veterans] touch the outside and we can tell they are saying goodbye to some ghosts," Willoughby says.

The planes are a physical reminder of what was lost, and gained. If you'd like to see the pair, tours run at the Chico Air Museum.

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