Re­stored Fly­ing Fortress to buzz over Bal­ti­more

Record Observer - - Arts & Entertainment - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

BAL­TI­MORE — For two days, Mary­land res­i­dents have the op­por­tu­nity to touch his­tory and take flight over Bal­ti­more in the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion’s Boe­ing B-17 housed at Mar­tin State Air­port this week­end.

Trav­el­ing through­out the United States to teach peo­ple about the World War II-era “Fly­ing Fortress” and the men and women who pro­tected the coun­try’s free­dom, the “Madras Maiden” air­craft is avail­able for 45-minute flights Satur­day and Sun­day, Sept. 2 and 3, for $450. Lib­erty Foun­da­tion mem­bers have a re­duced price of $410.

The Boe­ing B-17 class had com­bat ex­pe­ri­ence in Korea, Is­rael and in Viet­nam by the 8th Air­force in Europe.

One goal of the trav­el­ing air­craft is to help peo­ple re­al­ize the sac­ri­fices sol­diers made, and to honor the fallen B-17 crews, said Bob Hill, a vol­un­teer cap­tain at the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion.

Hill said the “Madras Maiden,” an un­pres­sur­ized war ma­chine that got as cold as mi­nus-40 de­grees in the air­plane, stops at more than 40 lo­ca­tions per year shar­ing its his­tory. Per hour of flight, Hill said, the foun­da­tion spends about $4,500 on fuel to op­er­ate.

But if the bomber wasn’t in use show­ing peo­ple the van­tage point of some of World War II’s fight­ing grounds, it would be static in a mu­seum. Hill said peo­ple can visit bat­tle­grounds on land and can go see mon­u­ments of war he­roes, but un­like Get­tys­burg or the beaches of Nor­mandy, France, peo­ple can’t take to the skies to view the aerial bat­tles fought with­out pro­grams like the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion’s.

Flights will go off about ev­ery hour be­gin­ning at 10 a.m. un­til about 4 p.m. Af­ter flights have fin­ished, Hill said peo­ple can tour in­side the air­plane for free to learn more about it. It is free for those wish­ing to see the “Madras Maiden” in per­son with­out a flight.

The plane takes off at about 100 miles per hour and once in flight trav­els over Bal­ti­more at around 140 mph, 1,200 to 1,500 feet above ground level. Dur­ing the war, Hill said, the plane flew at heights up­ward of 26,000 feet.

One of only 12 Boe­ing B-17’s still in flight to­day, the “Madras Maiden” never saw com­bat dur­ing the war as it was built to­ward the end. Its col­or­ing is of the 381st Bomb Group. Dur­ing the war, the bomber group flew 297 op­er­a­tional mis­sions, drop­ping 22,000 tons of bombs.

Hill said crews fly­ing out of Eng­land be­tween 1943-1944 had a 23 per­cent chance they wouldn’t sur­vive. Hill said more than 4,100 B-17s were lost dur­ing the war, more than 600 of which came from train­ing for­ma­tion losses.

The “Fly­ing Fortress” at Mar­tin State Air­port was built un­der con­tract by Lock­heed-Vega in Cal­i­for­nia in 1944 and spent the next 15 years as a re­search devel­op­ment air­craft. The Amer­i­can Com­pressed Steel group of Ohio pur­chased the air­plane for $5,025, which then sold it to be used as a cargo trans­port fly­ing pro­duce from Florida to the Caribbean.

Sold once more in 1963, the “Madras Maiden” be­came a fire ant sprayer with the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

The plane will travel to Raleigh, N.C. for its next pro­gram.

The Lib­erty Foun­da­tion is a 501(c)3 non-profit fly­ing mu­seum. For more in­for­ma­tion visit www.lib­er­ty­foun­da­tion.org/. Flights can be sched­uled on­line.

Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter: @ mike_k­ibay­times.

PHOTOS BY MIKE DAVIS

A re­stored Boe­ing B-17G “Fly­ing Fortress” sits at the Mar­tin State Air­port Mon­day af­ter­noon wait­ing to fly me­dia mem­bers over Bal­ti­more.

Shown here is a two pas­sen­ger horse-drawn buggy from more than100 years ago that the Queen Anne’s Mu­seum of East­ern Shore Life has on dis­play and is a fea­tured ar­ti­fact for the month of Septem­ber.

A ma­chine gun in the nose of a re­stored Boe­ing B-17 air­plane by the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion aims down to­ward Bal­it­more as the plane tours over the area.

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