The "Flying Fortress" bomber built by Boeing is one of the most famous airplanes ever made. The
prototype of the B-17 first flew on July 28, 1935. Few B-17's were in service on December 7,
1941, but production quickly accelerated. The aircraft served in every WW II
combat zone, but is best known for daylight strategic bombing of German
industrial targets. Production ended in May 1945 and totaled 12,726.
The B-17G now flying as Liberty Bell is based on a famous survivor of a bombing raid to Dusseldorf, Germany on Sept. 9, 1944. One of the low squadrons of the 390th Bomb Group took a direct hit from flak in its bomb bay, detonating its 1,000-lb. bombs and destroying or knocking out nine of the 12 aircraft in the formation. Six B-17s were lost over the target; one flew for two hours on a single engine to land in Paris; another landed in Belgium. One plane struggled home, landing long after the other 39 Flying Fortresses had returned to England. The plane? Liberty Bell – and she went on to complete 64 combat missions.
The current Liberty Bell was originally sold for scrap in 1947, but was bought by engine maker Pratt & Whitney as a testbed for their T-34 and T-64 turboprop engines. With the prototype engines mounted in its nose, the B-17 was the only 5-engine B-17 ever to fly. Pratt & Whitney operated the plane until 1967, when it was donated to the Connecticut Aeronautical Historic Association in East Hartford. Heavily damaged in a tornado in 1979, she languished for years before restoration began in 1987.
Now operated by the Liberty Foundation of Tulsa, Okla., Liberty Belle flies at air shows and offers rides around the nation, keeping awareness alive of the service and sacrifices made in World War II.
Source and Links: U.S.A.F. Museum
Liberty Foundation's Liberty Belle
Official site of the 303rd "Hell's Angels" Bomb Group
Fully assembled, Handcrafted Model Airplane with Removable
(Scale: 1/62, Length: 14.3", Wing Span: 19.9")