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8 Walk Away After B-17 Skids Into Burbank

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Times Staff Writers

Eight people on a B-17 bomber escaped serious injury Thursday when the rare World War II-vintage plane lost its brakes after landing at Burbank Airport and crashed into a fence and trash dumpster.

One of those who escaped injury was Dan Goldstein, 72, of Phoenix, who hadn’t flown on a B-17 since 1943 when he survived two crashes while serving as a radio operator and gunner during World War II.

Authorities said the restored, four-engine bomber named “Sentimental Journey” had landed safely at 12:37 p.m. but when the brakes failed, pilot Dick Churchill, a retired airline pilot, was forced to turn sharply to the right, a maneuver called a ground loop.

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“By the time he was to the end of the runway he made a ground loop to the right to get the plane off the runway,” said Victor Gill, spokesman for the airport. “They were actually going pretty slow when they hit.”

The B-17, which had flown to Burbank from Mesa, Ariz., as part of an air show this weekend, struck the airport’s crash fence and a nearby trash bin, which gashed the underside of the plane and jammed against its bomb-bay doors.

Authorities said there was no estimate on damage to the plane. It is valued at more than $1 million by its owner, the Arizona wing of the Confederate Air Force, an organization of aviation buffs.

Dave Dawkins, commander of the CAF’s Arizona wing, said from Phoenix that the bomber has had recent brake problems. After Thursday’s accident, he said the CAF would repair the damage to “Sentimental Journey,” considered one of the finest restored B-17s. About two dozen of the Boeing-made Flying Fortresses are thought to be still flying.

“Hell, it will give us something to do this winter,” Dawkins said.

The bomber was flying with a crew of five, including Churchill and co-pilot Bill Bahle, a retired commercial pilot, and three passengers.

Goldstein’s flight in “Sentimental Journey” was his first in a B-17 since he was shot down over Germany 45 years ago after which he was captured and imprisoned at Stalag 17. Earlier the same year, he had survived a crash-landing at a British air base.

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Staff writer Paul Dean also contributed to this story.

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