World War II-era B-17 bomber will soar over Pittsburgh this weekend


The Madras Maiden, one of the last remaining B-17 bombers, flies back to the Allegheny County Airport during a media flight Monday. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)

Listening to the sound of four revving engines muffled by ear plugs, passengers on the B-17 crawl into the nose turret of the WWII-era bomber, seeing stretches of land and Pittsburgh landmarks appear and disappear before them.

The Liberty Foundation — a nonprofit group based in Oklahoma — is offering flights on a B-17 bomber to preserve aviation history, honor veterans and educate the public on WWII. Flights on the Flying Fortress — dubbed “Madras Maiden” — will be offered to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5-6 at the Allegheny County Airport.

The Madras Maiden is one of about six B-17s still in operation after more than 12,000 were produced for WWII.
(Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)

The half-hour scenic tour of the city is $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members. And for those that want to simply view the plane, ground tours will begin in the afternoon and are free, although the Liberty Foundation suggests a donation to help them offset the cost of keeping the living museum running.

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The B-17 embarked on a media flight Monday morning, giving The Pitt News and other media organizations a chance to see and feel the historic plane in action.

Pilot John Shuttleworth, right, gives a safety briefing in front of the B-17. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)
Between 1944 and 1959, “Madras Maiden” was used as a research and development aircraft. It was was modified to be a “Pathfinder” B-17, equiped with ground scanning H2X radar that was used to bomb enemies at night. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)
The B-17 flies over the South Side. The plane is equipped with 50-caliber guns, but with no live ammunition. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)
The view from the nose as the plane soars over the North Shore. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)
Shuttleworth and co-pilot James Hammons fly the bomber, which was built toward the end of WWII and never saw combat. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)
Cameras and cell phones can easily get caught in the slip stream above the plane, the pilots warned. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)

With four engines, Shuttleworth said the plane is very safe and would easily continue flying should one engine stall. (Photo by John Hamilton | Editor-in-Chief)