VANDALIA – Most of us have heard of the Memphis Belle, one of the most famous B-17 Flying Fortress’ ever built and currently in the final stages of restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
This weekend, you can have the near once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ride on another vintage World War Two-era B-17.
The Liberty Foundation Salute to Veterans tour has their B-17G Madras Maiden at the Dayton International Airport this week where they will offer rides to the public on July 15 and 16.
There are only about 12 B-17 Flying Fortress’ still flying in the world today. Liberty Foundation is encouraging veterans, World War II veterans especially, to come to the airport to ride or do a ground tour of one of the few serviceable Flying Fortress’ still in existence.
Madras Maiden was built toward the end of the war. Completed in 1944, the G-model B-17 never saw combat but is painted in honor of the 381st Bomb Group. The 381st flew 297 combat missions, dropping 22,000 tons of bombs. During their combat tour, they lost 131 B-17’s and downed more than 223 enemy aircraft.
The majority of Madras Maiden’s service career was spent in Dayton, at Wright Field, later Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, where the aircraft served as a research and development platform. It is the only “Pathfinder” B-17 still in existence.
On Saturday and Sunday, visitors will have the opportunity to fly aboard this amazing airplane. The flight experience will take approximately 45 minutes, about 30 minutes of which is actually in the air.
Passengers will have the opportunity to move about the aircraft in flight, to visit the cockpit and watch pilot and co-pilot maneuver this amazing aircraft in the skies over the Dayton area, to go into the nose and see where the navigator and bombardier worked as German “flak” burst all around them as they flew bombing missions over the Third Reich. They can walk across the catwalk over the bomb bay, where 500 pound bombs wait on racks, to be dropped on enemy installations in Germany and to the two waist-gunner positions, where 19 and 20 year old men kept Luftwaffe fighters at bey as hundreds of B-17’s, flying in tight formations, made their way to enemy targets.
The cost for this amazing flight experience is $450 per person. Those wishing to make the flight are encouraged to call 918-340-0243 to make a reservation in advance. Flight will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., on the hour. Ground tours will be held from 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. both days. There is no charge for ground tours. Donations will be accepted. Flights and tours are at Stevens Aviation, FBO, 3500 Hanger Drive.
The Liberty Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit flying museum and funds generated held offset operational cost. Flying a B-17 Flying Fortress costs approximately $5,000 per flight hour. Liberty Foundation spends over $1,500,000 annually to keep Madras Maiden airworthy and on tour.