On January 14, 1978, at a membership banquet for the newly formed Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, Colonel Mike Clarke announced the donation of a B-17G aircraft to the CAF for assignment to the Arizona Wing. A contest was initiated by the local media to name the aircraft, which resulted in more than 800 entries, with the ultimate selection of the name Sentimental Journey. The decision was made to use the most famous pinup picture of World War II for the nose art. Permission was secured from widower Harry James to add Betty Grable in her most tantalizing pose to complete the newly acquired bomber.
B-17G Sentimental Journey entered service with the CAF in 1978. Arizona Wing members immediately undertook the chores of cleaning, polishing and repainting in WW II markings and honing the ship into excellent mechanical condition. They also initiated extensive crew training so that Sentimental Journey was prepared to fly with the CAF fleet. But even the aircraft's excellent condition wasn't good enough. Without four operational turrets, operational bomb bay doors, navigator and radio operator stations, Norden bomb sight and machine guns, Sentimental Journey was not an authentic Flying Fortress. Most people would have been content to continue the project bit by bit over several years but the Arizonan's were eager to complete the restoration of all military systems used on the B-17's during WW II.
In 1985 ground was broken for the wing's first permanent hangar facility. With the new facility, repairs to Sentimental Journey could now be performed inside. The new hangar also started the annual fundraiser "A Night in the 40's Big Band Dance" event and is held each March. Sentimental Journey is on display at the front of hangar for photo opportunities along with other Warbirds. Many of the dance attendees come dressed in the styles of the 40's for the costume and dance contests. The annual dance draws over 1,400 guests.
As the museum grew, so did the number of aircraft the wing was restoring. By 1986, Sentimental Journey was making an average of 60 appearances annually throughout the United States and Canada. More aircraft and musuem exhibits were being added to the Arizona Wing, and room for everything was getting sparse. In 2003 the Arizona Wing completed construction on the second building that consists of over 30,000 square feet of Museum and Event Facility space. Restored aircraft and museum exhibits are on display to give you event a unique atmosphere. The Arizona Wing's Event Facility is available for all types of events - "Black Tie," weddings, a casual B-B-Q, or a trade show. Information on renting the facility for your next event can be found by clicking here.
The Arizona Wing Museum has on display many WWII artifacts and memorabilia from the War Years to the Home Front. Many of these artifacts have been donated to the Arizona Wing by veterans and their families wanting to see them displayed to the public. School children that are too young to know much about this time are now able to see and feel this part of our history through school field trips.
Today the Arizona Wing maintains and fly's as its premier aircraft the B-17 Sentimental Journey and the B-25 Maid in the Shade, along with an SNJ/T-6 Texan, C-47 Skytrain/Dakota, C-45 Expeditor, PT-17 Stearman, and an L-16 Grasshopper. Rides in these planes can be requested by visiting here. Restoration projects have recently included a MiG-15, Grumman Guardian, and a Skiorsky helicopter. The Arizona Wing has on display a F4 Phantom, A 26 Invader, P 47 1/2 scale, SE5a, Schweizer TG-3A Glider and Mig 21, plus numerous visiting aircraft. The PX/Gift Shop in the museum has many unique aviation gifts.