“These are authentic 1940s airplanes that have been painstakingly restored,” said Montrose resident Dick Manhart, who spends winters in Arizona, where he volunteers as a flight crew chief with the Commemorative Air Force. Manhart encourages anyone with an interest in aviation or history to check out the visiting bombers. “It is really a privilege to have them here in Montrose and be able to tour through them and even book a flight if you’re so inclined,” he said.
The visiting bombers include B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey,” and the B-25 “Maid in the Shade.” The Sentimental Journey is the most authentically restored B-17 in existence, and one of just eight B-17s still flying today. Manufactured in 1945, it was too late to see service in World War II in Europe, but was assigned to the Pacific theater for the duration of the war. The B-25 “Maid in the Shade” flew out of Serraggia Airbase on the east coast of Corsica in late 1944, flying 15 World War II bombing missions over Italy, primarily targeting railroad bridges. After the war, it served a variety of functions, including as an agricultural crop duster. The plane was donated to the CAF in 1981, whose members worked for the next 27 years to restore it to flying condition.
Attendees will also get to see a TBM Avenger, courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Wing of the CAF. During World War II, future President George H.W. Bush flew an Avenger off a ship in the South Pacific. Following the war, the U.S. sold many Avengers to Canada; this plane was one of them.
The visiting aircraft will be on display at the Black Canyon Jet Center Thursday, Sept. 29, 12-6 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 30, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m. -4 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 2, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. On Monday, Oct. 3, the aircraft are scheduled to depart at 10 a.m.
The public is invited to view these airplanes at no charge (although tours inside the planes cost $5 for adults, $3 for ages 5-12, and under 5 admitted free, with all proceeds going to CAFAZ to maintain and operate the aircraft). Just a few of these planes are in existence today, and it’s rare to see one in actual flying condition. Those interested in actually experiencing flight as the World War II crews did can reserve a seat for flights over the Uncompahgre Valley by calling Manhart at 970/249-1508. A portion of the flight cost is tax-deductible and supports the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum.
The Salute to Veterans capstone element will be a benefit for the Montrose Community Foundation at the Black Canyon Jet Center Saturday, Oct. 1, 4-8 p.m. All veterans and active members of the military are invited as special guests, and are encouraged to wear their uniforms, if available. There will be a special presentation recognizing veterans at 5:30 p.m., followed by food, drinks and dancing. The event will include a silent auction featuring artwork, books, and a ride in a World War II-era open cockpit biplane. The suggested contribution of $25 will be accepted at the door. To request an invitation, call 970/249-3900. RSVPs will be accepted through Monday, Sept. 26.