PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Few aircraft have achieved the stature and fame of the “Memphis Belle.”
The Memphis Belle was the first American bomber to successfully complete 25 missions over enemy territory.
Decades later, a popular film would introduce the bomber and her crew to a new generation.
The movie version of that World War II bomber – a restored B-17 – will take passengers for rides at Allegheny County Airport this weekend.
Volunteer pilot Ray Fowler says the nonprofit Liberty Foundation will offer paid rides to the public to help meet the cost of keeping this piece of history in the air.
“Once they come out,” he says, “they want to find out what their fathers or their grandfathers did. And once they find out, they have a lot of interest. They come out and kind of sit in the same seat their loved one sat in. So the interest is so very high. I don’t see it going down any time soon.”
George Cahill served on a B-17. He recalls the day they turned back toward England after two engines went down.
“As we approached the White Cliffs of Dover, we lost No. 3 engine. And we flew all the way across England into Wales, and a naval air station. As we touched down and the wheel hit the turf, the fourth engine went out and we coasted into the airbase.”
That run, and many others, helped the B-17 earn its reputation as the bomber that would always bring you home.
The Memphis Belle is available for flights and tours Saturday and Sunday at Allegheny County Airport. For more information visit LibertyFoundation.org.