The B-17 "Movie Memphis Belle" taxies after landing at Clark County Airport. (Source: Michael Williams, WAVE 3 News)
SELLERSBURG, IN (WAVE) - A very special piece of history lands in Louisville this weekend. The Memphis Belle is a B-17 bomber that flew in World War II and it will be flying through the skies of the Derby City. We were invited on a flight aboard the "Flying Fortress" and it was an incredibly unique experience to get a feel for what our troops did during World War II.
"The fact that this thing was built so strong and endured so much damage was one of the great things about this aircraft," explained David Lyon, one of the pilots of the Movie Memphis Belle, the actual plane used in the 1990 film.
The plane is not the actual Memphis Belle that flew in WWII, but it is a World War II-era B-17 bomber itself. Coming off the assembly line in May 1945, it's one of only 13 B-17's out of more than 12,000 built that is still flying today.
Lyon says the B-17 was one of the reasons the Allies won the war. The plane was so reliable that it got crews home many times despite heavy damage, but the men who flew it into German and Italian territory still fought through very tough conditions.
"We don't have bullets zinging through," he said of the flight. "We don't have shrapnel zinging through, we're not going to lose engines and have fire, but you'll have a little bit of a sense of what these guys endured by being up there and feeling how small and confined it is - ten crew members on that airplane. While at one time it was the world's largest airplane, early 1930's, pretty small by today's standards."
In addition it was often 40 degrees below at altitude and much of the airplane was open. Crews had to wear heated flight suits and oxygen masks.
The mission of the Liberty Foundation is to bring this Memphis Belle around the country to allow veterans to see a piece of their history and to let others experience it firsthand as well. It will be on the ground Saturday and Sunday at Clark County Airport in Sellersburg.
Flights are $450, but if that's above your budget, when the plane is on the ground, you can tour it for free in the afternoon. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 918-340-0243.