Mike Mueller prepares to exit the nose gunner bubble of the Sentimental Journey B-17 at Cache Logan Airport on Tuesday.
LOGAN – A B-17 Flying Fortress touched down around 11:30 am on Tuesday at the Logan-Cache Airport as part of a historic tour by the Airbase Arizona Flying Museum. The iconic vintage aircraft will be on display in front of Leading Edge Aviation located at 2500 North Airport Drive, Suite 2.
The workhorse of the U.S. Air Command looks a little out of place at the Logan airfield with all the small private airplanes lined up in a row.
Mike Mueller, the load master on the B-17, said the Flying Fortress Sentimental Journey is a big attraction on the Flying Legends of Victory Tour. He said as far as he knew there are only five of the 12,431 B-17’s produced still flying.
It was purchased for approximately $40,000 in the 1980’s and was being used for fighting forest fires. In its current condition it is worth over $8 million.
Mueller arrived in the nose gunner bubble and climbed out of the warbird while the pilot, co-pilot, and crew chief took a different exit.
Only about half of the B-17 planes survived World War II.
“Rides and tours are available to the public for ground tours on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from 12 noon until 6 p.m. It will be opened from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. Friday, Saturday and Sunday the public can experience a flight in the airplane by going to their website www.azcaf.org/tour or by calling (480) 462-2992.
The money collected from charges associated with flights and tours is used to directly service and maintain the aircraft. The airplane can hold up to 17 people, Mueller said. The planes aren’t as roomy as the ones people see on television. It’s pretty tight inside.
“We fly about 15 trips a year in the B-17 and another 15 in a B-25,” he said. “We are losing a generation of men and women who flew these planes and sacrificed their lives for our freedom.”
When people fly on the airplane, they take them up to about 10,000 to 15,000 feet at about 150 miles per hour. He said during the war the plane’s top speed was about 260 miles an hour and they generally flew at an altitude of somewhere around 30,000 feet at sometimes at a temperature of 60 below zero.
“The Bombay has signatures of men and women who flew, built or had a personal connection with the B-17’s,” he said. “We are working on a way to preserve those signatures for generations to see.”
Mueller said they add more signatures with every tour. The crew members and gunners who flew in the Flying Fortress during the war were only 18 to 21 years old at the time.
“If anyone out there has a personal connection to a B-17 they should come sign the bombardier,” he said. “The pilots that fly these volunteer missions are commercial pilots and add their expertise to the mission.”
He trusts the pilots and the airplane more than any commercial airline flight.
“We fly about 120 to 140 hours a year doing the tours,” Mueller said. “The purpose of the tour and the reason they do the tours is to educate, honor and inspire people.”
Right now we are in the third generation away from those who fought in that war and there are few of them out there.
“We can’t let the heroes of that generation and what they did be forgotten,” he said.
Mueller invites everyone to come and get a look at the restored airplane.