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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, September 29, 2017

B-17 Flying Fortress takes flight over Chattanooga




Seventy-two years ago, B-17 bombers flew from bases far from home to bring freedom to oppressed people.

This weekend, the Madras Maiden, a restored WWII B-17, will take to the skies over Chattanooga as part of the Liberty Foundation’s 2017 Salute to Veterans tour.

The foundation’s mission is to educate people about the courage of WWII veterans and honor the brave aircrews that never made it home.

“The Madras Maiden is a living museum – our heritage is not in mothballs or the pages of a dusty book, but in three dimensions, here and now,” says Scott Maher, Liberty Foundation volunteer.

Unlike many museum exhibits, visitors will not only be invited to touch the past but will also have a chance to take a spectacular air tour over the Scenic City.

During the flight, passengers will be able to visit the cockpit, glass nose and every crew position to get a feel for what the historic aircraft was like during the war.

Public flights and ground tours will take place Saturday and Sunday at Wilson Air Center FBO, 932 Jubilee Drive.

The Madras Maiden will take off every hour on the hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Ground tours will be given 2:30-5:30 p.m. A designated area for people who would like to watch the flights at no charge will also be available.

A seat on the plane costs $450; ground tours are free. Call 918 340-0243 to book a flight.

While tickets are not cheap, the Madras Maiden costs $4,500 per flight hour to operate. The Liberty Foundation spends over $1.5 million annually to keep the B-17 airworthy and on tour.

Nicknamed the Flying Fortress due to her defensive firepower, the B-17 saw action in every theater of operation during WWII. The 8th Airborne in Europe operated most of the WWII B-17s, which participated in missions from bases in Great Britain. A typical B-17 mission lasted more than eight hours and struck targets deep within enemy territory.

With its 13 .50-caliber machine guns, its chin, top, ball and tail turrets and its waist and cheek guns, the B-17 earned the respect of its combatants. In addition, flight crews loved the Flying Fortress for her ability to withstand heavy combat damage and return safely home.

Boeing produced a total of 12,732 B-17s between 1935 and 1945. Of these, 4,735 were lost in combat. Following WWII, the Flying Fortress saw service in three more wars. B-17s were used in Korea, by Israel during the war of 1948, and they were even used during Vietnam.

At one time, more than 1,000 B-17s could be assembled for mass combat missions; today, the Madras Maiden is one of only 12 airworthy B-17s. It was built toward the end of the war and never saw combat.

“As our B-17 flies around Chattanooga this weekend, its famous silhouette and unique sound will draw a great deal of attention,” Maher says. “It is only through the public’s support that we can keep the B-17 on tour and from being silenced to sit in a museum.”

More information is available at www.libertyfoundation.org.

Source: Liberty Foundation