By Shelby Smithey…
The Liberty Foundation is bringing a restored Word War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, made famous from the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle,” to Pensacola this week to give enthusiasts a chance to experience a flight on the historic aircraft.
The Georgia-based nonprofit group was started by Don Brooks to honor his father who served in World War II as a tail gunner on another B-17 called the “Liberty Belle.”
Only one out of 13 B-17’s that are still airworthy in the world, the “Movie Memphis Belle” was built towards the end of the war and never saw any combat. It is painted to resemble the original “Memphis Belle” bomber that flew missions with the 91st bomb group of the 8th Airforce. The original “Memphis Belle” was the first B-17 to complete 25 missions with crew members intact.
The 74-foot bomber carried 10 crew members during its missions. Bob Hill, one of five volunteer captains of the Memphis Belle for the Liberty Foundation, said that out of about 12,000 B-17 bombers constructed during World War II, a third were destroyed in combat. “You had a one in three chance of surviving your mission,” Bob Hill said.
Ron Gause, co-pilot for the Liberty Foundation, said that about 4000 B-17’s were lost in combat during the war. “We owe a tremendous gratitude to those who have fought in World War II,” Gause said.
The Memphis Belle will be available to the public for flights this Saturday, Nov. 17 at the airport, 4145 Jerry L. Maygarden Road. Public flights will begin in the morning with ground tours in the afternoon. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flights take approximately 45 minutes.
Flights are $450 a person and $410 for Liberty Foundation members. Passengers can become Liberty Foundation members for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends. To make reservations, call Scott Maher at 918-340-0243.