Restored WWII B-17 bomber plane takes flight over Portland area

WWII Boeing B-17 plane takes flight

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A restored B-17 bomber that flew during World War II took to the skies again on Tuesday.

Say hello to the Madras Maiden. It’s a restored Boeing B-17 plane. Despite having flown during WWII, it's still flying today.

“For its day, it was a fabulous airplane. It was the backbone of the Air Force,” said George Keating, who served from 1941-1945 in the Army Air Force.

Keating was a mechanic. He worked thousands of hours on the plane and logged hundreds of hours of flight time in it. He was stationed at a base in England.

“At one time I could safely say I knew every bolt and rivet in it,” said Keating.

On Tuesday, he along with other local veterans got a chance to see the plane in action again.

The Liberty Foundation is giving folks a chance to experience the flying piece of history at the Hillsboro Airport. This weekend, people will be able to explore the inside of the flying fortress. The Madras Maiden is one of about a dozen B-17's still flying today out of roughly 13,000 that were built to fight.

“They all had names on them. Ours was The Joker,” recalled Don Anderson, who served from 1943 to 1945 in the Army Air Corps.

Anderson's role was in the back of the plane.

“In the tail, I was the tail gunner,” said Anderson. “Right there where those two guns are at the very, very, very end of it."

Anderson was drafted at 18 years old and he can still wear his flight suit issued 73 years ago. He's grateful he made it out of the war alive.

“I hope they never need anything like that again. This was the war to end all wars,” Anderson said.

“We had a job to do and that's what we did,” said Keating.

For Keating, the job meant hours in a cramped, less-than-comfortable flight. He said what he thinks others will gain from a ride in a B-17.

“An appreciation for modern airplanes,” he laughed.

If you'd like to experience it for yourself, public flights and tours will take place this Saturday and Sunday at the Hillsboro Airport. The whole experience runs about 45 minutes long.

It will cost $410 for Liberty Foundation members, and $450 for non-members. It is $40 to become a member. Folks with the Liberty Foundation said the amount of money may sound high, but to put it in perspective, the cost to operate a B-17 is more than $5000 per flight hour. The nonprofit spends more than $1.5 million every year to keep the B-17 airworthy and out on tour. 

© 2017 KGW-TV


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