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B-17 Belly Gunner Engineers Flights of Restored Warhorse

November 22, 1987

One of the last of the warhorses of World War II is at the Long Beach Airport today, on exhibit to show younger generations what the bombers that wreaked destruction on the Axis looked like.

Where once fleets of thousands of B-17s poured out of American factories and into the skies of Europe and the Pacific, only a dozen or so remain in flying condition, said Wilbur Richardson, 65, of Long Beach, the plane's flight engineer.

The plane was named "Sentimental Journey" by the four aviation enthusiasts who restored it. They donated it to the Confederate Air Force, a group of about 6,000 World War II aviation buffs with headquarters in Harlingen, Tex., who maintain a fleet of old warplanes.

The plane, usually kept at Falcon Field in Mesa, Ariz., is on a seven-month exhibition tour, said Richardson, a retired teacher who said he flew 30 missions as a belly gunner on B-17s.

The plane has been on exhibit at the Long Beach Airport since Thursday. The plane is scheduled to leave Monday for Santa Monica Airport where it will be exhibited over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

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