WWII Memphis Belle duplicate lands in Cincinnati

The Memphis Belle duplicate at Lunken Airport during a visit in June 2012. (Photo: FOX19/Jeff Creighton)
The Memphis Belle duplicate at Lunken Airport during a visit in June 2012. (Photo: FOX19/Jeff Creighton)

EAST END (FOX19) - The Memphis Belle, a duplicate of the famous B-17 bomber that flew countless missions during World War II, will be on display at Lunken Airport this weekend.

The plane has undergone more than $3 million in restoration and is operated by the nonprofit group the Liberty Foundation.

While it never saw combat, the plane is one of one only 13 B-17's that still fly. It costs more than $4,500 per flight hour.

The Liberty foundation will be offering 30-minute flights to the public on Saturday and Sunday. They are $450 or $410 for Foundation members. Ground tours will also be available.

The Lunken Airport Terminal is located at 262 Wilmer Avenue in Linwood.

The original Memphis Belle B-17 arrived at the National Museum of the United States Air Force (USAF) in Dayton, Ohio in October 2005.

In May 1943, it became the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States. The pilot, Lt. Robert Morgan, named the aircraft after his wartime girlfriend, Margaret Polk, of Memphis, Tenn. Morgan chose the artwork from a 1941 George Petty illustration in Esquire magazine.

An except from the museum's website states:

"Flying in the 324th Bomb Squadron of the 91st Bomb Group (Heavy), the Memphis Belle and its crew of 10 flew their first combat mission on Nov. 7, 1942. Until the arrival of long-range fighters later in the war, USAAF heavy bombers often flew without escort for part of their missions. Faced with hordes of enemy aircraft, deadly antiaircraft fire and the lack of friendly fighters in the target area, it was highly unlikely that a bomber crew would finish their required 25 missions."

"The crew of the Memphis Belle beat the odds with their 25th combat mission on May 17, 1943, against the naval yard at Lorient, France. Interestingly, this raid was the Belle's 24th combat mission--the original crew occasionally flew missions on other 91st BG (H) B-17s (and others took the Belle on some missions also). So, on May 19, the Memphis Belle flew its 25th combat mission on a strike against Kiel, Germany, while manned by a different crew."

Technical notes:

Armament: 13 .50-cal machine guns (normally only 12 on combat missions) and 8,000 lbs of bombs
Engines: Four 1,200 hp Wright R-1820-97 turbosupercharged radials
Maximum speed: 325 mph
Range: 2,800 miles
Ceiling: 37,500 ft.

The exterior and interior have been undergoing a conservation and restoration, including corrosion treatment, the full outfitting of missing equipment and accurate markings.

Bob Bardua, USAF public affairs manager, said the museum hopes for the original Memphis Belle to go back on public display in 2018. In the meantime, the public can view the plane by taking the behind-the-scenes tour at the museum.

Copyright 2014 WXIX. All rights reserved.