Most famous 'Flying Fortress' arrives in Tampa - New York News

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share

Most famous 'Flying Fortress' arrives in Tampa

Posted: Updated:
Tampa Executive Airport is visible from the B-17, with downtown Tampa in the distance. Tampa Executive Airport is visible from the B-17, with downtown Tampa in the distance.
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

The sound of history filled the skies over Hillsborough County on Monday.  The distinctive four-engine roar of a B-17 bomber heralded the arrival of the famed 'Memphis Belle,' which is in town for tours and rides this weekend.

The B-17, known as the Flying Fortress, was one of the most iconic aircraft of the war.  And the Memphis Belle may be the best-known of the bunch, thanks to the 1990 movie of the same name.

The original Memphis Belle crew was the first B-17 bomber to complete its 25-mission tour with its entire crew alive.  From November 1942 to May 1943, the plane flew dangerous round-trip missions from England to targets in Germany, France, and Belgium.

The actual aircraft is currently being restored at the U.S. Air Force Museum, but the movie version -- which was built too late to see action in World War II -- served as a transport during the Korean War and then as an firefighting water-bomber in civilian life.  It was purchased by a collector in 1982 and fixed up in time to appear in the movie. 

Pilot Ray Fowler was among those who flew the restored plane to England for filming.  Monday, he recalled the trip back across the Atlantic.

"We did the original route that they did," he said.  "It took us about 24 hours to get over there, which was pretty amazing."

Over 12,000 B-17's were built in WWII, but the replica Belle is one of only a dozen or so that are still flying.  It's now owned by the Liberty Foundation, an Oklahoma-based group that restores and maintains historic aircraft. 

They use the planes as flying classrooms and often give rides to WWII veterans in an effort to keep history alive.

"The youngest ones are in their early 90s now," Fowler continued.  "There's getting to be fewer and fewer of them to come out and share their stories."

One of those veterans was on Monday's flight.  Howard McDonald, who turns 95 next month, said he'd never been aboard a B-17, but he'd flown B-25s and other planes during the war and still pilots his own homebuilt plane several times a month.

"It was a great flight and there were some great pilots flying her.  They really know how to handle the airplane.  I certainly enjoyed it," he said after two quick jaunts over the Bay Area.

You can tour the Memphis Belle or even catch a ride this weekend at Tampa Executive Airport, formerly known as Vandenberg Airport.  Flights are available Saturday and Sunday morning for $450.  Afternoon tours of the plane on the ground will be offered in exchange for a donation.

LINK: www.libertyfoundation.org

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • 17,000 red light camera tickets dismissed

    17,000 red light camera tickets dismissed

    Friday, August 22 2014 7:39 AM EDT2014-08-22 11:39:23 GMT
    A technical glitch in a red light camera operating system means that some 17,000 motorists in New Jersey will not have to pay a fine for running red lights. Computer problems between May 28 and June 30 resulted in motorists not receiving notices of violations. New Jersey law requires that if a ticket hasn't been served within 90 days, it must be dismissed.
    A technical glitch in a red light camera operating system means that some 17,000 motorists in New Jersey will not have to pay a fine for running red lights. Computer problems between May 28 and June 30 resulted in motorists not receiving notices of violations. New Jersey law requires that if a ticket hasn't been served within 90 days, it must be dismissed.
  • Brooklyn Bridge flags back on US soil

    Brooklyn Bridge flags back on US soil

    Friday, August 22 2014 7:25 AM EDT2014-08-22 11:25:55 GMT
    Police say the two American flags swiped from the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced with faded white ones are back on U.S. soil. NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves said Friday that the flags are in the United States. He did not know their exact location. Two German artists claimed responsibility earlier this month for the July 22 stunt. 
    Police say the two American flags swiped from the Brooklyn Bridge and replaced with faded white ones are back on U.S. soil. NYPD spokesman Sgt. Carlos Nieves said Friday that the flags are in the United States. He did not know their exact location. Two German artists claimed responsibility earlier this month for the July 22 stunt. 
  • Garner's family meets U.S. attorney

    Staten Island stores worried about rally

    Staten Island stores worried about rally

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:34 AM EDT2014-08-22 10:34:05 GMT
    Some Staten Island business owners say they are bracing for huge crowds on Saturday during a planned march for a man killed in an apparent chokehold during his arrest by NYPD officers. The Rev. Al Sharpton said he is estimating about 3,000 to 5,000 people to rally.
    Some Staten Island business owners say they are bracing for huge crowds on Saturday during a planned march for a man killed in an apparent chokehold during his arrest by NYPD officers. The Rev. Al Sharpton said he is estimating about 3,000 to 5,000 people to rally.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices