View Spokane from the Nose of the Flying Fortress

By Paige Browning

One of the last flyable B-17 bombers, the Memphis Belle, will be taken out for public flights over Spokane this weekend.
The Boeing B-17 bomber is an icon of the greatest generation and World War Two.  Perhaps even more iconic is the Memphis Belle, one of the first B-17’s to complete the required 25 missions in World War Two.

The Memphis Belle B-17 sits in the sun at Felts Field in Spokane. (Paige Browning photo)The original Memphis Belle is being restored, but its namesake that’s on tour with the Liberty Foundation has received celebrity status of its own.

Shuttleworth: “This airplane was actually operated as a general’s transport in Honuda Japan.  And it flew around the Pacific, hauling dignitaries and high military personnel around.”

Pilot John Shuttleworth with the Liberty Foundation says it was bought by a firebombing company to fight fires, sold to a restaurateur named Dave Tallichet, and eventually Tallichet leased the plane to a production company making the Memphis Belle movie.

The Memphis Belle B-17 sits in the sun at Felts Field in Spokane. (Paige Browning photo)
Shuttleworth: “Now the reason they were interested in this airplane, is this is the last F model in existence…  The waste guns in the back here are straight across from one another, where in a G model they staggered them so the guys had more room to pivot.”
In the back of an F-model B17, the waste guns are parallel. (Paige Browning photo)It was painted green with the Memphis Belle caricature on the nose. Otherwise, it’s a classic bomber.
Lou Radwanick with the Liberty Foundation pilots a number of war planes, but says this one is charismatic.
Radwanick: “It’s a wonderful piece of machinery.  It was really something, it did a lot of hard work for us during World War II.  I mean they made 12,000, we lost almost 4,000 of them.” 

Twelve still fly, and about five are being restored.  Radwanick says an important reason for the B-17 tour is veterans.

In the back of an F-model B17, the waste guns are parallel. (Paige Browning photo)
Radwanick: “They put up with this stuff.  They saved western civilization, obviously, from some real evil stuff that went on.  So our job is to preserve history and let people see what it was like.  And keep it going. You know we’re losing veterans 1,000 a day.  The history has to be preserved.”
Shuttleworth says during flights, people can walk around the aircraft, sit in the nose, and experience the feel.

The B-17 will be at Felts Field Saturday and Sunday (May 11th and 12th). Flights cost $450. To schedule a 30-minute flight, call the Liberty Foundation at 918-340-0243.

Copyright 2013 Spokane Public Radio
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