Crash shifts plans for Walla Walla aviation event

A B-17 crash this week put the kibosh on a similar plane appearing here, but a B-25 is still scheduled to visit next week.

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WALLA WALLA -- The B-17 Flying Fortress that was scheduled to touch down in Walla Walla next week will not be making the tour in the wake of the crash of the "Liberty Belle" near Oswego, Ill., on Monday.

But the B-25 Mitchell bomber known as "Maid in the Shade" will still make a landing as part of the almost weeklong display of aviation history, airport officials say.

Both World War II bombers were slated for an exhibition at the Walla Walla Regional Airport. The crash of a separate B-17 has forced organizers to change course. Those coordinating the tours have voluntarily pulled B-17s around the country for maintenance and checkups, said airport Manager Jennifer Skoglund.

The restored Flying Fortress bomber crashed in a cornfield southwest of Chicago. The fiery landing burned the plane beyond repair, officials have said. None of the seven crew members and volunteers sustained serious injury. The crash was a blow to a piece of aviation history. Just over a dozen of the planes are operable today.

As with the B-17 that had been planned for the Walla Walla tour, the B-25 is part of the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum. It will be on display and available for tours starting next Tuesday through June 26, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

Entry to the display is free, but tours and rides have fees, according to details from the Walla Walla Regional Airport.

Only a few of these planes remain in the world today, and fewer provide the chance to ride in one as the flight crews did during World War II, airport officials say.

The bombers are maintained and operated as a flying museum and memorial to veterans by the all-volunteer nonprofit Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum in Mesa, Ariz. The B-25 headed to Walla Walla had 18 combat missions flying out of Corsica during World War II. The restoration of Maid in the Shade took 28 years and was completed May 2009.

B-25 flights are available for $395 per person. Reservations for flights on that plane can be made by calling 480-322-5503 or by visiting the bomber. A portion of the flight cost is tax deductible.

Fairchild Avenue at the airport will serve as the main entrance to the aircraft.

A number of other activities are planned as part of the event:

Wings and Wheels of Walla Walla 2011 is a joint event by the Mooney Aircraft Club and the Mercedes-Benz Club of America. The aircraft and vehicles will be on display from 9:30-11 a.m. on June 25 on the aviation ramp.

District 4 Auxiliary will have fire trucks on display from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. that day .

A 1929 Travelair Biplane will be on display and will give rides for a fee on June 25 and 26.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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