‘Liberty Belle’ takes flight over Phoenix

b-17 liberty belleDEER VALLEY – The Liberty Foundation’s B-17 “Liberty Belle” is one of only 14 B-17s that still fly today. The B-17 dubbed the “Flying Fortress” as a result of her defensive fire power saw action in every theater of operation during WWII. The majority of all WWII B-17s 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-17s produced between 1935 and 1945, of these 4,735 were lost in combat. Following WWII, the B-17 saw combat in three more wars – B-17s saw service in Korea, Israel used them in the war of 1948 and they were even used during Vietnam.

“Liberty Belle” 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 “Liberty Belle” B-17 that flew countless missions with the 390th bomb group of the mighty 8th Airforce.

The Liberty Foundation’s B-17G had an interesting post war history. Sold scrap in 1947 to a mining company, in short order it was sold again to Pratt & Whitney for the sum of $2,700. Pratt & Whitney operated the B-17 until 1967, in which it was heavily modified test bed for their T-34 & T-64 turbo prop engines thus making it a five engine B-17. In 1968 the B-17 was then donated to the Connecticut Aeronautical Historic society. Unfortunately, in 1979 the B-17 was heavily damaged in a tornado that threw another airplane onto the B-17’s mid-section breaking her back. The wreck was stored until 1987 when acquired by an aviation enthusiast in Florida with the intent to restore the aircraft. In 1992 the slow, laborious task of restoration began and with the turn of the century the B-17 was again sold to Don Brooks of the Liberty Foundation. Mr. Brooks, whose father flew B-17s with the 390th bomb group during WWII, founded the Liberty Foundation; a non profit museum dedicated to preserving our aviation heritage, and funded the complete restoration of the B-17 back to her full wartime configuration as she appears today. He chose to paint the B-17 as the ‘Liberty Belle” as a tribute to his father, a tail gunner who flew numerous combat missions in the original Liberty Belle, and all the brave aircrew of WWII. The B-17, following a fourteen year restoration, took to the skies again after 38 years on Dec. 8, 2004.

The “Liberty Belle” 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 airplane, 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 bomber flight at no charge. For enthusiasts that choose to take a flight experience on this legendary aircraft, these participants receive a pre-flight safety briefing containing the historical significance of the aircraft and a spectacular scenic air tour around the city. During the flight, passengers enjoy the unique opportunity of moving about the aircraft to the different combat crew positions to see the viewpoint that thousands of our heroes saw in combat over 60 years ago.

World War II was the single greatest challenge to freedom in the 20th Century. Through the 46 months of war, over 300,000 American soldiers, sailors and aviators died defending the beliefs that they held dear, with many more sacrificing in other ways. These men became our heroes through their struggles and came home to a grateful nation. Over the half century since, those heroes became our husbands, uncles, fathers and grandfathers; in many cases their stories were never shared with their families. Now with the popularity of movies like “Pearl Harbor” and the Steven Ambrose book “The Wild Blue,” families are seeking to learn more about our veterans. They realize these stories of courage and valor need to be preserved for future generations. Estimates place the number of World War II veterans dying each day at over 1,500. With each death, another story of courage, honor and sacrifice is lost forever. This aircraft represents that legacy of courage and valor.”

The total flight experience takes 45 minutes with approximately half hour in flight.  Flights experiences are $395 for Liberty Foundation members and $430 for non-members.  Passengers can become a Liberty Foundation Member for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends.  While $430 per person sounds expensive, it must be put into perspective when compared to a B-17’s operating cost.  A Flying Fortress costs over $4500 per flight hour and the Liberty Foundation spends over $1,000,000 annually to keep the Liberty Belle airworthy and out on tour.  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 the Liberty Belle flying and from being silenced permanently in a museum. Hopefully, for years to come!

This is your invitation to see, tour and fly a mission in the Liberty Foundation’s B-17 flying fortress “Liberty Belle” and take advantage of this ultimate historical experience. Come touch the past and fly through ageless skies.