Restored Flying Fortress to buzz over Baltimore
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.
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.