The World War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Madras Maiden” will take to the skies over Syracuse next week, and the public is invited for flights in the morning with ground tours in the afternoon. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The World War II Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Madras Maiden” will take to the skies over Syracuse next week, and the public is invited for flights in the morning with ground tours in the afternoon.
Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress”
The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 “Madras Maiden” is one of only 12 B-17’s that still fly today. The B-17, dubbed the “Flying Fortress” as a result of her defensive firepower, saw action in every theater of operation during WWII. The majority of all WWII B-17’s 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-17’s produced between 1935 and 1945, of these 4,735 were lost in combat. Following WWII, the B-17 saw combat in three more wars, including 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, which flew 297 operational missions during the war, dropping 22,000 tons of bombs. During this time, the 381st lost 131 B-17s and downed over 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 1944-59 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.
The plane 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 hauling fresh produce between Florida and the Caribbean. In 1963, she was sold again and converted to a Fire Ant sprayer under contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
From 1979 through 2014, The bomber was purchased by three different aviation museums and continued to be slowly restored back to her original combat configuration.
In 2016, The Liberty Foundation began to operate the “Madras Maiden” and 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 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, these participants receive a pre-flight safety briefing containing the historical significance of the aircraft and a scenic air tour around the city.
During the flight, passengers may move about the aircraft to the different combat crew positions to see the viewpoint that thousands of airmen saw in combat over 70 years ago.
The B-17 flight experience takes 45 minutes with approximately half hour in 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.
While the cost to take a flight sounds expensive, it must be put into perspective when compared to the B-17’s operating cost. A Flying Fortress cost is over $5,000 per flight hour. The Liberty Foundation spends over $1.5 million annually to keep the B-17 airworthy and on tour.
The B-17 tour and flight experience are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 19 and Sunday, Aug. 20, at Hancock International Airport, Signature Flight Support FBO, 248 Tuskegee Road.
The Liberty Foundation is a 501(c) (3) non-profit flying museum and funds generated merely help offset these high costs. 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.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.