Liberty Foundation’s 2018 ‘Salute to Veterans’ tour offers unique flight experience to community

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Photo by Robert Noles/Opelika Observer

Special to the
Opelika Observer

The Liberty Foundations 2018 “Salute to Veterans” tour arrived in Montgomery on Labor Day. On display Sept. 8-9 will be the famous Boeing B-17 “Madras Maiden” celebrating 73 years since the end of WWII.
On Saturday, ground tours will be available at Dannelly Field during the “Red Tails over Montgomery Airshow.” The event will be held at 4600 Richards Road in Montgomery. On Sunday, both flights and ground tours will be open to the public at the Dannelly Field Montgomery Aviation FBO located at 4525 Selma-Mobile Hwy in Montgomery.
The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 “Madras Maiden” is one of only 12 B-17s that still fly today. The B-17 dubbed the “Flying Fortress” as a result of her defensive fire power saw action in every theater of operation during WWII. The majority of all WWII B-17s were operated by the 8th Airforce in Europe and participated in countless missions from bases in England deep into enemy territory. There were 12,732 B-17s produced between 1935 and 1945, of these 4,735 were lost in combat. Following WWII, the B-17 saw combat in three more wars, B-17s saw service in Korea, Israel used them in the war of 1948 and they were even used during Vietnam. “Madras Maiden” was built toward the end of the war and never saw any combat. It is painted in the colors of the 381st Bomb Group. The 381st BG flew 297 operational missions during the war, dropping 22,000 tons of bombs. During this time, they lost 131 B-17s and downed more than 223 enemy aircraft. The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 had an interesting postwar history. The airplane was built under contract by Lockheed-Vega in Burbank California on Oct. 17, 1944.
The “Madras Maiden” spent its entire military career 1944-1959 as a research and development aircraft, also being modified to be a “Pathfinder” B-17 equipped with the H2X “Mickey” radar system and is the only “Pathfinder aircraft left in existence. It was sold as surplus in 1959 to American Compressed Steel of Ohio for the sum of $5,025, then sold to Albany Building of Florida and used as a cargo transport. In 1963, the plane was sold again and converted to a fire ant sprayer under contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From 1979-2014, the B-17 bomber was purchased by three different aviation museums and continued to be slowly restored back to its original combat configuration. In 2016, the Liberty Foundation began to operate the “Madras Maiden,” which flies today to continue our mission of honoring our veterans, educate current and future generations as to the high price of freedom and to preserve our aviation history.
The Misson
The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 provides visitors the opportunity to take a step back in time and gain respect for the men and women who gave so much to protect our freedoms. At each stop, flight “missions” are available in the “Madras Maiden” which allow people to take flights in this historic aircraft. During flight operations, there will be a designated, secure area for those who would like to watch the aircraft flights at no charge. For enthusiasts that choose to take a flight experience on this legendary aircraft, these participants receive a pre-flight safety briefing containing the historical significance of the aircraft and a spectacular scenic air tour around the city. During the flight, passengers enjoy the unique opportunity of moving about the aircraft to the different combat crew positions to see the viewpoint that thousands of our heroes saw in combat over 70 years ago.
The B-17 flight experience takes 45 minutes, with an approximately 30-minute-long flight. B-17 Flights are $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members. Passengers can become a Liberty Foundation member for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends. A Flying Fortress cost is more than $5,000 per flight hour. The Liberty Foundation spends more than $1,500,000 annually to keep the B-17 airworthy and out on tour.
The The Liberty Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit flying museum and funds generated merely help offset these high cost. Only the public’s interest and other generous donations keep this historic aircraft flying and from being silenced permanently in a museum for years to come.
To find out more information regarding tours, flights and reserverations, visit www.LibertyFoundation.org, call 678-589-7433 or email info@libertyfoundation.org.

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