REFLECTIONS - World War II plane takes to the skies again

CLEVELAND - Liberty Belle, a restored World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, is taking to the skies over Cleveland and the public can go along for the ride Saturday and Sunday. Norwalk Reflector photographer Lou Reda and videographer Alisa Kessler, who got a ride in the plane earlier this week, said the experience was fantastic.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

CLEVELAND - Liberty Belle, a restored World War II B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, is taking to the skies over Cleveland and the public can go along for the ride Saturday and Sunday.

Norwalk Reflector photographer Lou Reda and videographer Alisa Kessler, who got a ride in the plane earlier this week, said the experience was fantastic.

Rides last about 30 minutes and cost $395 for Liberty Foundation members and $430 for non-members. The plane is flying from Burke Lakefront Airport at 1601 North Marginal Road in Cleveland.

The Liberty Foundation operates a museum that has restored the plane and is sponsoring the tour. Cost to join the Liberty Foundation is $40.

A Flying Fortress costs more than $4,500 per flight hour and the Liberty Foundation spends about $1 million per year to keep the plane airworthy and on tour.

The Cleveland stop begins a historic journey that will take the Liberty Belle overseas to Europe in July.

"The Liberty Belle is a living museum our heritage not in mothballs or the pages of a dusty book, but real life, three dimensions, here and now. You are invited to come and touch the past and fly through ageless skies," said Scott Maher, media representative for the Liberty Foundation.

"The Liberty Belle is a living museum our heritage not in mothballs or the pages of a dusty book, but real life, three dimensions, here and now. You are invited to come and touch the past and fly through ageless skies," said Scott Maher, media representative for the Liberty Foundation.

"The Liberty Belle was built to do exactly one thing and not a single rivet deviates from that intent, yet it has been converted by human ingenuity and determination into a vessel that bridges understanding between generations. It's and old bomber with a new mission."

Don Brooks, in honor of his father's service in a B-17 during World War II, founded the Liberty Foundation and has restored the Liberty Belle and other historic aircraft. B-17s were admired for their ability withstand heavy combat damage and return safely home.

B-17s are famous for their role in bombing raids over enemy territory in World War II, but were also used by the U.S. in Korea and Vietnam. Israel used the B-17 in that country's war of 1948.

The plane on tour was built toward the end of the war and never saw combat, but is painted in the colors and nose art of the original Liberty Belle that flew many missions with the 390th bomb group of the 8th Airforce. The original Liberty Belle was based in Framlingham, England.

Some statistics of the plane:

weighs 34,000 pounds empty, wartime load weight of 65,500 pounds.

carried 8,000 pounds of bombs for long trips and up to 17,600 pounds of bombs for short trips.

had 13 Browning M-s .50 caliber machine guns, which fired 13 rounds per second.

had regular fuel capacity of 1,700 gallons for 1,850 miles, but that could be extended with the addition of "Tokyo Tanks" to 3,630 gallons.

wing span of 103 feet, 9 inches; length of 74 feet, 4 inches.

required a crew of 10 pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, flight engineer (top turret gunner), radio operator, two waist gunners, tail gunner and ball turret gunner.