As we get ready to celebrate Memorial Day, a hands-on history lesson is coming to the Omaha metro area. Scott Maher is the Director of Flight Operations for the Liberty Foundation and says two historic aircraft will be in the area Saturday. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress were common sights in the 1940’s but are very rare to see today. The Liberty Belle is one of these rare birds.
“The B-17, the Liberty Belle, is one of the B-17’s made famous by the 8th Air Force and was kind of the work horse of WWII. This airplane never saw combat. It was built at the end of the war, sold for scrap for 2-thousand dollars and ended up being torn in half by a tornado. We recovered the airplane 13 years later and spent another 13-years and four-and-one-half-million dollars to restore it. ”
Maher says restoring this plane was a labor of love and is perfectly restored.
“Everything inside and outside the airplane is original down to the bomb site and the nose that works. Folks can certainly dial in a target as we’re flying.”
Maher says those in the metro can come out and see this historic plane on Saturday. They will also take folks for a ride back in time.
“It is one of only four still flying world-wide that folks can come out and experience. We travel the country and invite folks to come out, touch the past and fly through ageless skies. We’ll be at the Council Bluffs Airport on Saturday with flights from 10 to 2 every hour on the hour and for those who don’t want to fly, it will be on the ground for tours from 2 until sunset and they can spend as much time in and around the airplanes as they like.”
Maher says it is very exciting when veterans who were part of the B-17 history come and visit the Liberty Belle. They always have a story or two to share. He shares one story about a veteran he encountered two weeks ago.
“We had a veteran come out who was a ball-turret gunner. It was about 100 degrees. He wanted to go out and look at the ball turret. Twenty minutes later I looked over at him and he was on the ground, flat on his back. I was thinking the heat had gotten to him and I grabbed some water and said “Sir, are you ok?” He said “Yea, I bailed out on my 23rd mission and this is the last thing I saw” as he was lying down and looking at the airplane. I tell ya, we are losing 15-hundred WWII veterans a day and with each death goes another story of courage and valor and I hope these planes represent those stores of courage and valor.”
Maher says there are three main reasons why the Liberty Foundation does what it does.
“One is to honor our veterans. Continue to teach current and future generations of the high price of freedom and certainly to preserve our aviation history.”
Along with the Liberty Belle, a Curtis P-40 Warhawk will be on display. It will arrive on Saturday.
“It is actually a combat veteran that was in the Aleutian Islands in 1942. Its the only two seat P-40 in existence that folks can come out and fly in and it was made famous by the Flying Tigers in China in WWII.”
The Council Bluffs Municipal Airport is located at 16801 McCandless Lane. These two rare beauties will only be on display Saturday, May 28th in the metro and then will fly to an appearance in Des Moines.