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Flying in a piece of history

Ben Godar

Two heavy bombers flew into Burbank on Friday afternoon on a mission

to preserve a piece of World War II history.

The B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator are part of The Wings

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of Freedom Tour, sponsored by a Massachusetts nonprofit group, giving

people a chance to see, touch and even fly in the vintage military

aircraft. They will remain on display at the Burbank-

Glendale-Pasadena Airport until Monday afternoon.

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Ron Dickson, a local aviation enthusiast, has visited the tour

each of the 10 years it has come through town. Last year was the

first time he actually went for a flight in the B-17.

“The engines are so loud, the wind’s in your face -- I’d much

rather do that than fly in a jet fighter, it’s just so real,” he

said.

Longtime resident Kevin Gray, a member of the B-17 Combat Crewmen

and Wingmen, also said the ride is quite a thrill, but not a scary

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one.

“It’s not a white-knuckle experience,” he said.

For those looking to appreciate the planes without leaving the

ground, they are parked at the Mercury Air Center so visitors can

climb inside and sit in the crew seats.

The Burbank stop might even be a homecoming for one of the

aircraft. The B-17 was probably manufactured at the Lockheed A-1

facility in Burbank, Dickson said. Nearly 3,000 of the planes were

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produced at the facility.

“People think of it as a Boeing product and assume it was built up

in Seattle,” he said. “Actually, a lot of them were built out on

Hollywood Way.”

The B-17, which was used during testing of the atomic bomb, is one

of only nine operational aircraft from the era. The B-24, which flew

in combat in the Pacific during WWII, is the only airworthy one left

in existence, organizers said.

With the number of operating planes from the era dwindling,

Dickson said it is important to experience these pieces of history in

person.

“See it now. Pretty soon, there won’t be any left,” he said.


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