The Boeing B-17 is the most famous bomber of World War II. Nicknamed the “Flying Fortress,” this aircraft routinely returned its crew safely back to land after sustaining enough damage that would send nearly any other aircraft into a tailspin.
Between 1935 and 1945, 12,732 of these juggernauts were assembled and sent skyward. By the end of the World War II, over one-third were lost in combat. Today, there are only 15 that can operate into the clouds. One of them is coming to Washington.
The Madras Maiden, formerly called “Chuckie,” is painted in the markings of the 381st Bomb Group. The Liberty Foundation has just begun its 2018 Salute to Veterans last month in Portland, Oregon. The exciting tour extends all over the United States, touching down in the Seattle area this week.
The 381st Bomb Group piloted these Flying Fortresses from Ridgewell, Essex, England between June 1943 and April 1945. Two prestigious awards were obtained by the crews during this 14 month span. One for bombing shipyards at Bremen, Germany while under heavy attack. The other was given to the 1st Bomb Division as a whole for flying without protection from fighters to bomb aircraft factories in Oschersleben, Germany at the beginning of 1944. Red tips extend on the ends of the wings of the Madras Maiden with a matching red tail that adds a touch of valor to the earth-toned body of the airborne beast.
When you climb into the hull of the bomber, you shimmy your way through the narrow passage into your seat. Seventy or so years ago, there would have sat a couple of tons of explosives next to your feet. When your pilot rips open the first of four engines it feels like the explosion is rumbling from the inside out, like if you dove into the center of an active volcano. Each sequential propeller kicks off in such a way that the blades seem to start spinning quicker and quicker until they each become a permeant vortex. The bomber rolls forward before bursting into the sky.
Traditionally outfitted with seven machine guns, the flying fortress could defend itself in any direction. Caricatures mock up the bomber as if it were castle with archers defending its stronghold. This aircraft could endure a litany of bullets and still land its crew on safe soil. One B-17 had its tail ripped from its body but still managed to land on safe soil. Everybody aboard walked away, uninjured.
If you want the once in a lifetime opportunity to soar in the defensive powerhouse that aided the Allies in winning WWII, please call 918-340-0243. Flights will take place Saturday and Sunday, April 7 and 8, between 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Renton Municipal Airport located at Pro Flight Aviation FBO, 750 West Perimeter Road, Renton WA, 98057. Ground tours are shortly after the last flight from 2:30-5:30 p.m. The cost is $450 for Liberty Foundation members and $410 for non-Liberty Foundation members.
You can become a member to the Liberty Foundation for only a small annual contribution. Members receive a membership card, newsletter
updates, discounts on rides and merchandise and are recognized as special members of the foundation. Members fuel the importance of history and keeping the memory of the B-17 freshly alive in the public mind.
There are only nine passenger seats available each flight so it is best to schedule as soon as possible. “The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 flies today as a tribute to the courage and commitment of all the men and women who served our country in times of need,” said Scott Maher of the Liberty Foundation.
Please visit LibertyFoundation.org to get involved.