WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- If you were in Winston-Salem Monday morning, you may have seen – or heard – a piece of World War II history. If you missed it, you have another chance.
The “Madras Maiden,” a restored WWII B-17 “flying fortress” bomber landed at Smith Reynolds Airport, before taking off for a brief tour shortly after 11 a.m. for the Liberty Foundations 2018 Salute to Veterans tour.
“It represents a generation that should not be forgotten,” said 94-year-old DeWitt “Lucky” Wells, a WWII veteran who was on Utah Beach on D-Day.
Wells, and other veterans, were able to tour the plane and go for a ride over Winston-Salem.
“I enjoy this type of thing because it does bring back a lot of memories,” he said.
“What it did in World War II was so historic,” said John Hess, a volunteer pilot for the Liberty Foundation.
The foundation says 12,731 of the bombers were made and took flight. Of those, about 5,000 were lost in combat. Today, 10 or so are considered “airworthy.” The Madras Maiden is one of them.
“When they get around the airplane, the flood of memories must just be incredible,” Hess said, of the veterans.
For Hess, flying the B-17 is an opportunity not only to give the veterans what is often a final B-17 flight, but to also give our youngest generation a history lesson they could never get in a book.
“To really get the sights, the sounds, the smells and everything, and being around a B-17 and the roar of the engines,” he said.
The Liberty Foundation is offering public flights on Saturday, Oct. 6 and 7. Flights – which cost $450 per person – are scheduled to be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every hour.
Following the flights, there will be public tours of the plane at no cost. However, the foundation does accept donations to help them maintain the plane. Ground tours are from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.
“To be able to ride in one, that is obviously a huge deal,” Hess said.
Anyone who would like to reserve a flight can visit libertyfoundation.org.