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 ••