Day trip: Fly on historic B-17 this weekend only in Renton

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    Those looking for a weekend day trip can get up close and personal with a piece of American history about 30 miles south.

    The Liberty Foundation, a non-profit flying museum, brings its B-17 Madras Maiden to the Renton Municipal Airport (Pro Flight Aviation FBO, 750 W. Perimeter Rd.) for public tours and flights on Saturday and Sunday, April 7-8. Flights must be scheduled ahead of time and cost $450 per person, or $410 for Liberty Foundation members. Ground tours are available by donation. For more information, click here.

    Liberty Foundation Chief Pilot Ray Fowler describes the flight as “the ultimate history lesson.”

    The Madras Maiden is painted in the colors of the 381st Bomb Group, which flew 297 operational missions during World War II and dropped 22,000 tons of bombs. During that time, they lost 131 B-17s and downed over 223 enemy aircraft.

    The plane is one of only 12 B-17s that fly today. It was built in 1944, near the end of World War II, and never saw any combat. Instead, the aircraft spent its entire military career as a research and development aircraft.

    It was sold as surplus in 1959, then sold to Albany Building of Florida for cargo transport, hauling fresh produce between Florida and the Caribbean. In 1963, the Madras Maiden was sold again and converted to a fire ant sprayer.

    It began its transformation back to its original combat configuration in 1979. From then until 2014, three different aviation museums purchased the bomber and restored it.

    The Liberty Foundation purchased the plane in 2016, and now flies it with the mission of honoring veterans and educating future generations.

    It costs $1.5 million annually to fly the Madras Maiden and maintain it for flight, according to the Liberty Foundation. The $450 charge to take a flight only offsets the cost of flying and maintaining the plane.

    Fowler’s favorite part of flying the Madras Maiden, he said, is seeing World War II veterans get on.

    “They get right into their old crew positions,” he said. “They are 19 again for just a little while.”

    –Story, photos and video by Natalie Covate

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