WATCH: Vietnam Veteran Battling Brain Cancer Flies WWII-Era Bomber Aircraft

by Matthew Memrick

An Idaho Vietnam veteran battling brain cancer took to the skies recently in a rare WWII-Era Bomber.

Ronald “Butch” Sutton, who lives in a retirement community in Eagle, was among a small group of people who got to fly “Sentimental Journey.”

According to KIVI news, the eight-passenger B-17 Bomber was in Idaho for the Flying Legends of Victory Tour. That tour runs through September with stops in Washington, Oregon and California.

Sutton, who said he flew in Huey choppers during that war, said flying on the plane was a bucket-list opportunity.

“(The plane is) before my time,” Sutton told KTVB. “But I still wanted to experience it.”

Sutton told KTVB that, growing up, boys wanted to fly in the B-17 he got to take a ride on. After landing, he told the television station that the plane ride was “great” and “well worth it.”

Eagle resident Pamela Washburn, 71, also took the trip, according to the report. She and her late father were Air Force veterans, and he flew that plane during the war. 

In a video, she said she always wanted to take the trip with her father. She took a picture of him with her on the flight. Afterward, she said she knew how her dad felt flying in the plane.

Veteran’s B-17 Plane Trip Part Of History

The B-17 Bomber plane was created to precision bomb the enemy during combat and avoid civilian casualties. 

According to plane owner Commemorative Air Force, the “Sentimental Journey” was made in November 1944 and used by the United States soon after. After the war, the aircraft later served in training, testing, and sea rescue missions. Its name likely comes from one of actress-singer Doris Day’s songs from 1945.

Once in surplus, it was sold and maintained by another company from 1959 to 1978.

By 1978, a Commemorative Air Force member purchased the rare plan and donated it to the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum. From there, it went through a restoration process.

According to IMDb, director Steven Spielberg used “Sentimental Journey” in his film “1941” with the late John Belushi. The movie website said the director had the chin turret taken off. Also, to make the plane look like an earlier model, the aircraft used silver tape during the filming.

According to CAF, airplane makers Boeing, Vega, Douglas made 12,731 B-17s. The company said only five are actively flying currently.

Another CAF-owned B-17 aircraft crashed at a Connecticut event in 2019. Three people died, with others injured in the crash. Later, the Commemorative Air Force said they would keep flying “Sentimental Journey” and other plans in its fleet.

According to KIVI, the vintage plane was at the Nampa Airport for the past week.

Veteran Ronald Sutton’s flight, depending on plane seating, costs $425 or $850. On the ground, the plane’s pilot gave plane tours for a small fee.