A group hoping to build a museum to honor the aviation history of Southwest Missouri and the surrounding area is holding events this weekend centered on an airplane with a glorious history of its own.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber called Sentimental Journey, owned and operated by the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, landed at Joplin Regional Airport on Wednesday.
The gleaming silver bomber, studded with 13 .50 caliber machine guns, will be the centerpiece for the Freedom of Flight Museum's first big fundraiser, called the Freedom of Flight Gala, set for 7 p.m. Friday, at the CD Aviation Hanger at the Joplin airport.
The Gala has a 1940s theme. People are invited to come dressed in World War II era clothing and dance under the wings of the famous bomber.
Darryl Coit, who is on the board helping put together the Freedom of Flight Museum, said a local group “This Side Up” will provide USO style entertainment. Dance and costume contests, a silent auction and guest speakers complement the evening activities.
Keynote speaker Bret Steffen, Director of Education for the Experimental Aircraft Association will speak on the role museums can play in area education.
People can call 417-553-2683 for reservations or information.
Cost for the event is $75 per person with a discount available when purchasing a table seating 10. Tickets for the dinner and dance can be purchased by calling 417-553-2683. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.freedomofflightmuseum.org or www.eventbrite.com. Proceeds benefit Freedom of Flight Museum, which is a 501(c)3
In addition the museum, Mizzou Aviation and Alpha Air Center will sponsor an open house at the Joplin Regional Airport.
On Saturday and Sunday, the plane will be one of many displays at the Freedom of Flight Open House, to be held at the Joplin Airport's general aviation area, off Missouri Highway 171 on Dennis Weaver Drive.
People who are interested can buy rides on the four-engine bomber for $425 or $850 per person.
Frank Pervanger, the CAF staff member taking reservations for the flights, said the $850 is for rides in the engineer's and bombardier's seats in the nose of the aircraft, and $425 pays for rides in the cabin and waist gunner areas of the bomber.
“Obviously the nose seats are premium seats,” Pervanger said. “You see everything before everyone else and you have a 180-degree view out the front of the plane. You still get great views from the waist seats and you can move around the airplane once the pilot clears people to move around.”
The proceeds goes to pay the $3,000-per-hour costs to fly the rare bomber and the costs to maintain and overhaul the plane when necessary.
Page 2 of 2 - Sentimental Journey is one of only six B-17 bombers, out of 12,000 that were built before and during World War II, still flying today.
Other activities include static aircraft displays and hands-on educational activities for kids and adults. Hours for the open house are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Admission is free to the public.