WWII-era B-17 bomber drops in on the Val­ley

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Blaine McCormick

A his­toric Boe­ing B-17 Fly­ing Fortress, a cen­ter­piece of U.S. air power dur­ing World War II, flew into Phoenix Deer Val­ley Air­port on Mon­day.

Phoenix was one of the last stops for the air­craft, nick­named Madras Maiden, as part of a 50-stop tour across the United States spon­sored by the the Ok­la­homa-based Lib­erty Foun­da­tion.

Chief pi­lot Ray Fowler said the na­tional tour, de­signed to give the pub­lic an up-close look at the clas­sic air­plane, be­gan in mid-March. He said he never tires of fly­ing a piece of his­tory.

“There’s noth­ing like get­ting in it and ac­tu­ally tak­ing a flight and re­ally learn­ing the his­tory that way with the air­plane,” Fowler said. “It’s an amaz­ing piece of ma­chin­ery and we all pretty much vol­un­teer our time on the week­ends to come out and to do this.”

Fowler, a pi­lot for Delta and who also has flown F-16 fighter jets for the Air Na­tional Guard, noted the B-17s do not have pres­sur­ized cab­ins.

He said that fac­tor added to the worry for pi­lots on top of the dan­gers of the war it­self dur­ing WWII.

There were 12,732 B-17s pro­duced be­tween 1935-45. Of those, 4,735 were lost in com­bat.

The air­craft was not built for lux­ury, as sol­diers were crammed into tight spa­ces packed with 50-cal­iber guns, bombs and heavy ma­chin­ery.

“It’s such an honor and a priv­i­lege to fly this air­craft,” said Jim Lawrence, the Madras Maiden’s co-pi­lot.

“I’ve flown a lot of com­bat but noth­ing like what the guys who flew this air­plane did.”

Lawrence, 71, served in the mil­i­tary as a fighter pi­lot de­ploy­ing to Viet­nam, Bos­nia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

For Lawrence, the op­por­tu­nity to fly this plane was amaz­ing, but the his­tory be­hind it was some­thing even more sig­nif­i­cant.

The Fly­ing Fortress is owned by the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion and is one of only 12 B-17s that are still fly­ing.

Phoenix-area res­i­dents can tour the Madras Maiden on Nov. 4-5 at the Deer Val­ley Air­port, Cut­ter Avi­a­tion Hangar, 732 W. Deer Val­ley Road. The air­craft usu­ally takes flight be­tween 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., then is avail­able for the tours after the last flight.

The cost to take a flight is $450 for non-mem­bers of the Lib­erty Foun­da­tion. Mem­bers pay $410. Do­na­tions are ac­cepted dur­ing tours.

Money goes to pre­serv­ing the air­plane and con­tin­u­ing to tour it.

In­for­ma­tion: lib­er­ty­foun­da­tion.org or 918-340-0243.

PHO­TOS BY TOM TIN­GLE/ARI­ZONA RE­PUB­LIC

Pi­lots James Lawrence, left, and Ray Fowler, with the Boe­ing B-17 Madras Maiden.

A view out the nose of the Boe­ing B-17.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.