Memphis Belle flies into Fresno

A piece of military history has flown into Fresno Yosemite International Airport -- ready to give Valley residents a glimpse of the past.
April 14, 2014 12:00:00 AM PDT
A piece of military history has flown into Fresno Yosemite International Airport -- ready to give Valley residents a glimpse of the past.

Memphis Belle also served as a "time machine" of sorts for a local veteran, who hasn't set foot in a World War II B-17 bomber in 70 years.

Garrett Rickman got a chance to take Memphis Belle out on a ride Monday afternoon before the B-17 bomber opened to the public. The 90-year-old vet served as a World War II gunner in the '40s.

"I like B-17s, and I like to fly," said Rickman.

After undergoing an extensive restoration project, the Memphis Belle has traveled around the country serving as a living museum for history buffs and giving them a real taste of what airmen went through in the war.

"It actually allows us to bring the airmen's battlefield to you. That's one place you could never go," said Bob Hill with the Liberty Foundation.

Volunteers with the Liberty Foundation have worked hard to bring this plane back to life. Out of the 12,000 created, only nine are still in flying condition. After World War II ended, most were sold or recycled.

"If it wasn't for the people that actually flew on this airplane, it would be just another parked in some museum for people to look at," said Hill.

This giant piece of history has also spent some time on the big screen. You may recognize the plane from the 1990 movie "Memphis Belle," which celebrates the first bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the U.S.

The Memphis Belle is housed at a Midwest museum. For someone who's served mission after mission on a warplane like this, it helped bring back memories.

"Viewing the surroundings it was great. I'd take it again. It was worth it," said Rickman.

Memphis Belle will be at the airport on Sunday, April 20. Tours on the ground are free, but a 30-minute flight will cost $450 a person, which all goes back into fuel and maintenance.

For more information, visit www.libertyfoundation.org.


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