Take a ride on history: B-17 Flying Fortress open to public flights this weekend (with video)
BROOMFIELD — A piece of World War II history took off from the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport on Monday afternoon: the “Madras Maiden,” a Boeing B-17 Bomber circa 1944. The plane, dubbed the “Flying Fortress” due to its formidable defensive firepower, is traveling the country as part of The Liberty Foundation’s 2018 Salute to Veterans tour.
The foundation’s mission is to share the plane and to give visitors a taste of what it might have been like to take off in an authentic World War II era bomber.
“What you see in a museum is so sterile,” said Captain John Shuttleworth, one of the Madras Maiden’s pilots for the Liberty Foundation. “We’re committed to making this a living history, where you can come out and take a ride on the airplane, smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel the vibrations and really get a feel of what it would be like for 100 bombers to take off on a mission.”
More than 12,000 B-17s were produced between 1935 and 1945, most of which were operated by the 8th Air Force in the European theater. Over 4,700 were lost in combat, along with 40,000 airmen, half killed in action and half taken prisoner, according to Shuttleworth.
The Madras Maiden was built in 1944 and never saw combat. It was built under contract by Lockheed-Vega out of Burbank, Calif., and spent its military career as a research and development aircraft.
Shuttleworth believes that as the number of World War II veterans dwindles — only 558,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are still alive, according to The National WWII Museum in New Orleans — it’s become more important for others to carry on their legacy.
“Ten years ago we had a lot more veterans, so our role in education was more to act as a catalyst, giving these vets the backdrop to tell their stories firsthand,” said Shuttleworth. “Now our role seems to be more of sharing what happened, and trying to impress upon people what this airplane represents from a technological standpoint, and the sacrifices our air crews made.”
The flight is an amazing trip over Broomfield and Denver, free to roam one of America’s most iconic aircrafts. You can stand in the back of the cockpit and watch the pilots fly, sidestep across a narrow beam over the bomb bay doors and stare out of windows once meant for turret gunners. There’s even an opening in the top of the plane you can stick your head out of (mind the wind).
The B-17 flights will be at the Rocky Mountain Metro Airport on May 5 and 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day. The experience takes 45 minutes, with approximately 30 minutes of flight time. It costs $450 per seat, which goes toward maintaining the aircraft. The Liberty Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit. At 3 p.m. the plane will be open for ground tours for anyone who gives a donation. Reservations can be made by calling (918) 340-0243.
“This is an iconic airplane, and it’s a real privilege and pleasure to fly a national treasure,” said Shuttleworth. “This plane really symbolizes the sacrifice and the commitment we had to our ideals during World War II.”
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