World War II era B-17 bomber on display this weekend at the Concord Regional Airport; flights available

By Chris Stonestreet
Special to the Tribune
Sixty-five years ago, farmers in southern England would regularly hear a thunderous sound from the sky. Looking up, they would see the might of Allied airpower flying in formation to deliver a knockout blow to the industrial centers around Nazi Germany.

The backbone of the strategic bombing initiative during World War II was the Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress.”

Today, out of the 12,732 B-17s constructed between 1935-1945, only 14 are left in the world, and only nine are still airworthy. This weekend, the public will get a rare glimpse of the one of the last flyable B-17s at the Concord Regional Airport.

Called the “Liberty Belle,” the restored B-17G was constructed toward the end of World War II. After the war, the plane was sold for scrap, then to the Pratt & Whitney Company as a platform for testing turboprop engines. Then, in 1992, she was sold to Don Brooks of the Liberty Foundation and painfully restored to her former glory. Today the plane is based in Tulsa, Okla.

Brooks had a personal connection with the aircraft: His father was a tail gunner in the original Liberty Belle of the 390th Bomber Group/ US 8th Air Force.

On Monday, the Liberty Belle flew into the Concord Regional Airport about noon under sunny skies. Pilot John Bode said it’s like “flying a dream, and the individuals at the Liberty Foundation are some of the best guys I’ve ever met.” 

A non-profit organization that salutes the sacrifices of U.S. veterans, the Liberty Foundation is dedicated to preserving the nation’s heritage as a leader in aviation. 

On Saturday and Sunday at the Concord airport, the public can see the B-17 up close between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Admission is free, but donations for the plane’s upkeep will be accepted. Rides will be sold for $430 ($395 for Liberty Foundation members), with all proceeds going to the airplane’s maintenance.

To schedule a flight or obtain more information, call 918-340- 0243 or visit http://www.libertyfoundation.org

Chris Stonestreet is a history teacher at Mooresville High School.

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