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World War II bomber Memphis Belle soars and roars into Western Pa. sky

| Monday, July 22, 2013, 11:10 p.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
George Cahill, 88, of Mt. Lebanon, comes out of the terminal at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin to ride the Boeing B-17 'Memphis Belle' on Monday, July 22, 2013. Cahill flew 28 missions in B-17s during World War II.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
George Cahill, 88, of Mt. Lebanon looks out of the roof of the Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle, as he takes a ride in the historic plane that took off from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Jim Syndan, 67, of Apollo tells his grandson Cody Dykes, 9, also of Apollo, stories about his father (Dykes' great-grandfather) flying a Boeing B-17 in World War II, as they view the Memphis Belle at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013. Snydan said he tries to bring his grandkids to see the plane every year.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
George Cahill, 88, of Mt. Lebanon laughs as he rides in the belly of the Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle, riding once again in the historic plane that took off from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Charles Keller, a pilot during World War II in the 457th Bomb Group, stands underneath of the Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle, as he waits to take a ride in the historic plane at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013. Keller, 90, of Washington said he flew a B-17 35 times during the war. 'It brings back a lot of memories,' he said. 'Those memories are indelible. … You don't dwell on them. ... Some of them are pretty tense, some of them are happy memories.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Bob Hill, a volunteer pilot with the Liberty Foundation, looks out the window of the foundation's Memphis Belle before takeoff from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013. 'It's a rare chance to step back in time,' said Hill, of riding in the legendary plane. 'I like to tell people they can experience all five senses in it. There's a taste to it.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
George Cahill, 88, of Mt. Lebanon, looks out of the roof of the Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle, as he takes a ride in the historic plane that took off from the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday, July 22, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Mikayla Barone, 3, of West Mifflin takes a look in the sniper guns in the back of the Boeing B-17 Memphis Belle at the Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin on Monday. With Barone (from left) are J-Den Allred, 6, of Troutdale, Ore.; Madison Booth, 9, of West Mifflin, Lyannie Barone, 6, of West Mifflin, Kibi Allred, 8, of Troutdale and Mike Barone, 27, of West Mifflin.

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 cgallagher@tribweb.com.

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