Anyone can take a step back in time this weekend, March 22-23, by touring two World War II air crafts brought to El Paso by the Liberty Foundation’s “Salute to Veterans” tour.
B-17 bomber, Flying Fortress, the “Movie” Memphis Belle, flying museum ... the historic aircraft built during WWII has lots of names.
Although the one visiting El Paso never served during combat, it has certainly served the U.S. and continues to by touring the nation thanks to the non profit Liberty Foundation.
"It’s about people getting the chance to experience what the 10 men on this aircraft would have done or World War II veterans in general," volunteer Keith Youngblood said.
For 10 years the organization has been displaying and flying the fully restored B-17. This is the first year it has been in El Paso for public tours and flights.
"A lot of times people come out wanna see what grandpa did or their father did during the war and this is the closest we can get to seeing their battlefield," Youngblood said about the experience.
Ground tours inside the B-17 and a P-51 “Mustang” fighter are free. Liberty Foundation requests donations, if possible.
For those who want to be a B-17 passenger, the cost is $450 a person. Since Liberty Foundation is a non profit and is run by volunteers, all the money from flights goes to maintaining the aircraft.
"It really comes alive when you actually fly on the aircraft and see it fly versus just a hunk of aluminum sitting in a museum static," Youngblood said.
Educating future generations is the main goal because in about 10 years no B-17 bomber pilots will still be alive, Youngblood said.
Here's some quick facts provided to ABC-7 about B-17s:
- About 12,730 were built.
- The Boeing produced plane's first flight was in 1935.
- Planes had over 10 years in production, models range from
YB-17 to B-17G.
- Each plane was loaded with 13 .50 caliber machine guns.
- During wartime one weighed more than 65,500 pounds.
Reservations are requested for those who wish to fly in the aircraft. The flights will generally be from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday at the El Paso International Airport, Atlantic Aviation FBO, 1751 Shuttle Columbia Drive.
A B-17 flight experience lasts about 45 minutes, with 30 of those in flight. It costs nearly $5,500 per flight hour to operate a Flying Fortress. Call 918-340-0243 to make a reservation. You can also visit www.LibertyFoundation.org for more information.