POSTED: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 9:17am
UPDATED: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 - 9:20am
El Paso, TX (KTSM) — There are few things in a lifetime that could compare with the pure exhilaration of lift-off in a piece of history. That's exactly what some Borderland residents will have the opportunity to do this coming weekend, March 22nd and 23rd at Atlantic Aviation, located at 1751 Shuttle Columbia Dr.
The Liberty Foundation, a non-profit, aimed at preserving history through active flights will make a stop in the Borderland this weekend. The Liberty Foundation is a 501(c) non-profit flying museum and the funds the group raises go directly to operating the historical aircraft.
The Liberty Foundation's B-17 'Memphis Belle' is one of only 14 B-17's that still fly today. The aircraft, which was dubbed the 'Flying Fortress" as a result of her defensive fire power saw action in every theater of operation during WWII.
The B-17 that will be making its stop in El Paso was built toward the end of the war and never saw any combat. It is painted in the colors and nose art of the original 'Memphis Belle.' The Liberty Foundation's B-17 became a water bomber and as a Tanker 78 until the late 1970s. The aircraft was later restored to its present condition to resemble a B-17F model. The restoration included installation of power turrets, early tail gunners compartment, early Sperry dorsal turret recovered from a south Pacific wreck and added a 91st BG paint scheme.
The volunteers from the Liberty Foundation say that their biggest goal in touring the B-17 is to keep the aircraft in the sky and out of museums. "You can go to Normandy, you can go to Gettysburg, but you can't go to where these guys flew their missions. This is as close as it gets." said volunteer Keith Youngblood.
Volunteers say their greatest joy comes when veterans who flew missions in the bombers come to take flights on the 'Memphis Belle.'
The Liberty Foundation will lift-off from Atlantic Aviation with a 45 minute B-17 flight experience. Flights are $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members. A 20-minute flight in the P-51 Mustang escort will cost $1,595 for members. Passengers can become a Liberty Foundation Member for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends.
Volunteers with the Liberty Foundation say that while the cost may sound expensive, you must first consider the cost involved in maintaining the aircraft. The cost to maintain the Flying Fortress is over $5,500 per flight hour. The Foundation estimates it spends over $1.5 million annually to keep the aircraft airworthy and out on tour.
To reserve your spot on the plane, call Scott Maher at (918) 340-0243. You can also visit the Liberty Foundation's website at www.libertyfoundation.org .
The public is also welcome to come to take ground walking tours after 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday for no charge, however the Foundation notes that all donations are welcome.
WHAT: B-17 Flying Fortress 'Memphis Belle' Flights
WHERE: Atlantic Aviation; 1751 Shuttle Columbia Dr. El Paso, TX
WHEN: Saturday March 22 & Sunday March 23
COST: $410 for members, $450 for non-members; Walking tours are free.
CONTACT: Scott Maher (918) 340-0243 to reserve your spot