Northeast Times

WWII wings fly over Northeast

Sky high: A B-17 bomber in the paint scheme of the le­gendary air­craft, the Mem­ph­is Belle, will take pat­rons on a half-hour aer­i­al tour of Phil­adelphia this week­end. TED BOR­DE­LON / TIMES PHOTO

If you’ve ever wanted to ex­per­i­ence what it was like to fly in a World War II-era bomber, your op­por­tun­ity lands at North­east Phil­adelphia Air­port this week­end.

A B-17 bomber in the paint scheme of the le­gendary air­craft, the Mem­ph­is Belle, will take pat­rons on a half-hour aer­i­al tour of Phil­adelphia that will re­cre­ate the sights, sounds and view­points that World War II com­bat vet­er­ans ex­per­i­enced more than 70 years ago.

The Liberty Found­a­tion, an Ok­lahoma-based non­profit, owns and op­er­ates the “fly­ing fort­ress,” which was built to­ward the end of the war and nev­er saw com­bat.

Flights aren’t cheap — $450 a per­son — but for most, the ex­per­i­ence and op­por­tun­ity is likely once-in-a-life­time.

“It’s a lot of money, but it’s a mat­ter of time be­fore the gov­ern­ment stops let­ting us fly these planes around for safety reg­u­la­tions,” Keith Young­blood, a crew mem­ber with the Mem­ph­is Belle, said at a me­dia screen­ing on Monday.

He ad­ded, however, that the air­craft has been main­tained and re­mains safe for flight.

“It’s prob­ably the safest air­plane you could ever fly on,” Young­blood said. “It’s built like a tank. They give it the name ‘fly­ing fort­ress’ for a reas­on.”

The B-17’s pas­sen­gers will have the op­por­tun­ity to move about the air­craft dur­ing flight, take pic­tures and even peer out of the glass-en­cased nose of the plane.

Some vet­er­ans were on hand dur­ing the me­dia screen­ing, which in­cluded a flight demon­stra­tion.

Joe Blineb­ury, 94, flew on a B-17 in Europe as a ball tur­ret gun­ner dur­ing World War II and served from Au­gust 1943 to April 1945.

The old­est of five sons born in Port Rich­mond, Blineb­ury said that he was thank­ful to the men with whom he served dur­ing the war, and ad­ded that he owed his life to them.

Ac­cord­ing to Blineb­ury, he lost oxy­gen and con­scious­ness on two sep­ar­ate oc­ca­sions and was re­vived by his quick-think­ing crew.

“My thoughts now about those gen­tle­men are that I hope they’re up in heav­en be­cause they were tre­mend­ous people,” Blineb­ury said. 

Blineb­ury elec­ted not to fly on the B-17 be­cause of a heart con­di­tion.

Pub­lic flights and tours of the air­craft will take place Sat­urday, Aug. 31, and Sunday, Sept. 1, at the North­east Phil­adelphia Air­port.

To book a flight or for more in­form­a­tion on ground tours, call 918-340-0243 or vis­it liber­ty­found­a­tion.org ••

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