Sawyer, a Korean Conflict veteran, had never seen a B-17 airborne,
but his father flew one in World War II.
"If my father were alive, he'd have been out here," said the North
Hollywood resident said.
The Word War II-era planes are in town through today at Mercury
Air Center as part of the Wings of Freedom tour sponsored by the
Collings Foundation, a Massachusetts nonprofit group that supports
events celebrating transportation history.
Burbank has become a regular stop on the annual tour. As the
former site of a Lockheed plant that made thousands of military
aircraft during the war, including the B-17, the airport is steeped
in aviation history.
The Flying Fortress, however, came from a Douglas aircraft plant
in Long Beach.
The Liberator on display is the only aircraft of that type still
flying, foundation volunteer Bob Orabona said. The plane, which
served in Europe and the Pacific, was recently painted to represent
how it looked when used by the 8th Air Force stationed in England.
The idea behind the Wings of Freedom tour is twofold, Orabona
said: to reunite veterans with the type of aircraft they served on,
and to educate postwar generations on the sacrifices those veterans
"They have exceptional stories to tell, and those have to be
shared," Orabona said. "We want that experience to continue."
At Van Nuys Airport, where the planes were on display before
coming to Burbank, Orabona helped an 84-year-old veteran into the
"When he sat down in the chair, for 25 or 30 seconds he was
someplace else; he was back in 1944 or 1945," Orabona said. "He was
so happy. He was beaming."
* MARK MADLER covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached
at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at mark.madlerlatimes.com.