WWII-era plane in KC this weekend

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A historic plane landed in Kansas City Monday afternoon and will be available for the general public to fly in and tour this upcoming weekend.

The Boeing B-17G, a World War II era plane, arrived at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport during an overcast afternoon on Monday, May 21.

The Liberty Foundation Salute to Veterans Tour will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 26-27.

 CODY THORN/Citizen photo The Madras Maiden landed at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport Monday afternoon, May 21. The 1944 World War II-era bomber plane will give tours this Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. from the location.

CODY THORN/Citizen photo
The Madras Maiden landed at the Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport Monday afternoon, May 21. The 1944 World War II-era bomber plane will give tours this Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. from the location.

Flights on the 1944-built plane – the Madras Maiden — cost $450 per person and will take off every hour during the scheduled time. The Liberty Foundation is a non-profit museum and funds generated for the Oklahoma-based organization offset the cost of flying from town to town.

“We are very happy to be here,” said pilot Cullen Underwood. “We want as many veterans to come out and see the plane as possible. That is the main reason, to honor the veterans.

“It is a special moment to experience the aircraft. Not many are around and not many get to experience it hands on.”

The Madras Maiden is one of 12 B-17s — dubbed the Flying Fortress — that still flies today. The B-17s mainly operated in Europe during World War II and of the 12,732 produced between 1935 to 1945, 4,735 were lost in combat.

The planes were also used in the Korea and Vietnam wars.

They held a crew of 10 service members — to man the many guns on the plane — and dropped 5,000 pound bombs.

This particular plane, painted in the colors of the 381st Bomb Group, was built toward the end of the war in Burbank, Calif., and it didn’t see any combat. It was a fire bomber and after retirement has gone through different owners but is currently leased by The Liberty Foundation, based in Claremore, Okla.

“These aircrafts won the war in Germany,” Underwood said. “We beat them back with this bomber.”

When asked what it is like to fly the planes, he said, “For me, I imagine what the crews were going through. They were in their late teens, early 20s and going into a situation that wasn’t going to be good. At the beginning of the war, a huge number of crews were lost.”

This plane was in the military from 1944 to 1959 and later was used to haul produce between Florida and the Caribbean, before being converted into a fire ant sprayer with the U.S. Department of Agriculture starting in 1963.

From 1979 to 2014, it was purchased by three different aviation museums before The Liberty Foundation started to operate the Madras Maiden in 2016.

The cost to fly the plane is more than $5,000 per hour and annually The Liberty Foundation spends $1.5 million to keep the plane in the air and on tour.

For more information on the flights visit LibertyFoundation.org or call (918) 340-0243.