SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) – If you were lucky Thursday, you might have caught a glimpse of a rare sight in the skies above the Triangle – a B-17 Flying Fortress.
The “Madras Maiden” landed at the Raleigh Executive Jetport in Sanford around noon after taking a 2-hour flight from Baltimore.
But that won’t be your only chance to see it.
The Liberty Foundation flew the Madras Maiden to North Carolina to give the public a chance to see the bomber up close – and even take a ride.
The Madras Maiden is just one of 12 B-17s still flying today.
Built in 1944, the Madras Maiden never saw combat but what you can see this weekend is almost completely original. The engines, landing gear and Norden bombsight are all originals.
Pilot John Hess said the only modern equipment that has been added in the Madras Maiden a radio and GPS.
Hess has been with the Liberty Foundation since 2006 and said he’s proud to be able to fly what he calls an “amazing airplane.”
Hess flew the B-17 to Sanford with crew members James Hammons and James Duke.
A short jaunt in the B-17 is an eye-opening experience that makes one appreciate what the college-aged boys did during World War II.
The plane is cramped to move around in now – and that is without much of what the bombers would carry during missions over Europe. The Madras Maiden carry four replica bombs. During the war, a similar bomber would have carried 12.
Getting to the nose of the plane takes maneuvering and at least one bump of the head. The bomb bay area must be crossed by an extremely narrow and tight cross beam.
Fifty-caliber guns still sit perched in the windows and turrets just as they would have more than 70 years ago.
The Madras Maiden is painted with the colors of the 381st Bomb Group – which flew 297 operation missions during WWII.
Anyone interested in booking a ride September 9 or 10 at the Raleigh Executive Jetport should call Scott Maher at 918-340-0243. The Jetport is located just off U.S. 1 in Lee County. Take exit 76 for Farrell Road and then turn on Rod Sullivan Road.
All flights will be done before the plane is opened for tours Saturday and Sunday.
A half-hour flight in the B-17 is $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members.
A Liberty Foundation membership costs $40.
Tours of the bomber are free but donations are accepted. Donations collected this weekend will go towards the restoration of another B-17.
It costs approximately $5,000 to fly the Madras Maiden for one hour.