The Museum of Aviation will be soon welcome a new chapter in its history. “Miss Liberty Belle,” a World War II vintage B-17 will join the museum’s collection of aircraft. The B-17 is not one of those sleek, jet powered planes with swept-backed wings. No, when the Flying Fortress was designed by Boeing back in the 1930s, there was no such thing. And when it first took to the skies in 1938, it was for the United States Army Air Corps, not the Air Force. The Air Force wouldn’t become its own branch of the military for another nine years.
The B-17 lived up to its nickname, the “Flying Fortress,” because it could sustain heavy damage and continue flying. It had a range of 2,000 miles and a service ceiling of almost 37,000 feet. In comparison to today’s bombers, the B-17 was rather small. Its wing span of almost 104 feet is 68 feet shy of the B-2 Stealth Bomber and 81 feet shorter than a B-52. Still it was a workhorse dropping more bombs during World War II than any other aircraft. The plane was active in every theater of war during WWII and almost 13,000 were made during its eight years of production.
The cost in human terms of the air war over Europe was astounding. As durable a plane as the B-17 was, the chance of a 10-member crew returning from a mission was only 50 percent. Seventeen B-17 crew members received the Medal of Honor, 11 posthumously.
“Miss Liberty Belle” will come in from outdoors from Peru, Indiana, where it has been displayed for the last 54 years into the warmth of the World War II Scott Hangar. That’s only fitting. One pilot Middle Georgia and the world knew very well is Gen. Robert L. Scott. While he’s best known for piloting a P-40 Warhawk, he also flew B-17s. This new addition to the aviation museum should feel right at home.