Monday, March 9, 2020

The Liberty Foundation is giving flights to the public in a B-17

Posted By on Mon, Mar 9, 2020 at 4:20 PM

click to enlarge TARA FOULKROD, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tara Foulkrod, Tucson Local Media
When first laying eyes upon, “Ye Olde Pub”, one immediately realizes why the World War II-era aircraft is also known as, “The Flying Fortress”. This B-17 bomber aircraft is massively intimidating. Its metallic exterior walls and dull olive-green paint make it look like a prop out of an old black and white film. But this is no prop, and this is no movie. I was about to board this aircraft and fly.

Normally, this isn’t something I’m comfortable with. I didn't actually work on or fly in aircraft, and despite having been around them during my past career in the Air Force, it wasn’t a part of my duties to be on them. And I was okay with that, seeing as how I wasn’t a fan of flying - or heights.

click to enlarge TARA FOULKROD, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tara Foulkrod, Tucson Local Media
But this was different. This was history. It’s not something I would normally have a chance to do, and probably won't have a chance again. This coming weekend is the last time the B-17 is available for public flights. There are only eight left able to fly (out of 12,431 originally constructed). Luckily, you also have a shot to experience history.

This is all thanks to The Liberty Foundation. They travel the country with a variety of historic aircraft to honor American veterans and to educate the public on the high cost of freedom. This weekend, March 14 and 15, they’ve brought along “Ye Olde Pub” to the Tucson International Airport for public flights and education, and I’d been invited for a pre-event flight.

click to enlarge TARA FOULKROD, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tara Foulkrod, Tucson Local Media
Monday morning I was nervous but mostly excited. I day-dreamt about what it would be like boarding and then flying in such an aircraft. I really didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know that hours later I would have the rush of a lifetime.

Walking towards the hangar I started to get butterflies. After walking into a clean and modern waiting room we listened to the preflight speech giving all of us a safety briefing. The aircraft is old and wasn't meant for comfort. There are certain things you need to pay attention to while you're on, because you won't be able to hear much once you're in the air. Got it. Copy all.

click to enlarge TARA FOULKROD, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tara Foulkrod, Tucson Local Media
We exited the main building and headed toward the plane. I tried to make myself small as I crawled in so as not to hit my head, and found a seat on some red seat webbing. After strapping in, I was already pumped. Any fear I had beforehand was washed away by the sheer magnitude of historic significance.

The engines came to life, starting with a sputter before coming to a roar. I held on while looking through the gunning window, imagining the 18-year-old who may have sat there almost 80 years before. Once we got to altitude we were able to unbuckle and crawl around the aircraft. From the radio room to the nose, everything was amazing. To think of how many young people not only flew in these, but also gave their lives, was awe-inspiring.

The flight felt fast, and though we had been in the air for about 15 minutes, it was time to touch back down. I was grateful that I was able to have such an amazing experience.

click to enlarge TARA FOULKROD, TUCSON LOCAL MEDIA
  • Tara Foulkrod, Tucson Local Media
Though this plane was built in 1945, the original “Ye Olde Pub” from 1943 was a working plane during World War II and has a great historic story on its own. Now it remains as a symbol and teaching instrument, traveling the nation to tell its story and give people a first-hand look at the skies from the perspective of our forefathers.

You can get your chance to see and fly on the B-17 this weekend, March 14 and 15. For more information or to donate to the cause, go to www.libertyfoundation.org.

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