As smoke filled the runway and the engines of the Memphis Belle roared, Kyle Hinerman and his mother watched the plane, restored to resemble the iconic World War II bomber, soar into the sky from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin.
“It's amazing how they could still fly it today,” said 12-year-old Kyle, of Glassport.
Kyle and his mother Jackie, went to the airport Monday afternoon to spend time together and watch planes take off, but they were in for a surprise when they saw the enormous 1945 Boeing B-17G on the runway normally populated by small planes.
The Liberty Foundation gave rides and tours of its “Flying Fortress” to World War II veterans and the media Monday afternoon. It will be on display and available for tours and rides to the public on Saturday and Sunday.
Volunteers from the Liberty Foundation, a nonprofit based in Oklahoma, fly the plane that's insured for $5 million to more than 50 cities each year as a way to preserve World War II history and honor veterans, pilot Bob Hill said.
The Boeing B-17 is among just a handful of World War II aircrafts capable of flying the public. Most are displayed in museums.
Inside the plane, which appeared in the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle,” passengers can feel the engineer's roar, smell the gallons of gasoline it burns and learn about the missions of millions of veterans.
“It has one purpose: to put bombs on a target,” Hill said.
Two machine guns and rounds of bullets are inside the plane, next to a mock bomb.
After passengers strap themselves into green canvas seats for takeoff, they can walk across a rope bridge to the plane's cockpit.
For World War II veteran George Cahill, Monday's flight rekindled memories from his 28 missions aboard a B-17 during the war.
“I was right there in the nose, where everyone could shoot at me,” Cahill, 88, of Mt. Lebanon said.
Christina Gallagher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5637 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Tours of the B-17 “Flying Fortress” bomber
When: Flights every hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free tours follow until sunset.
Where: Allegheny County Airport
Cost: Book flights for $450 per person ($410 for Liberty Foundation members) by calling 918-340-0243.
On the Web: www.libertyfoundation.orgSubscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
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