The skyline of Oklahoma City looks a little differently when you are looking at it from 3,500 feet in the air, especially when it’s from the open turret atop the B-17 bomber.
Known as the Flying Fortress, more than 13,000 of the planes were constructed to help fight World War II.
Today, only 13 remain, including the Madras Maiden, which will make a stop at Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City this weekend.
Thirty-minute rides on the historic plane will be available Saturday and Sunday morning and cost $450. In the afternoon, the plane will be open for touring for donations.
The B-17 is operated by the Liberty Foundation as a way to remind people of what was sacrificed for America’s freedom during World War II.
The Madras Maiden was manufactured in California in 1944 and served as a research and development aircraft.
It was decommissioned by the military in 1959 and was thrust into duty as a civilian plane. It was used for a variety of jobs, including as a cargo plane and to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture fight fire ants.
Members of the media were able to take a flight in the plane on Monday, during which they were give the same opportunities that visitors this weekend will have. That includes walking around inside the plane, looking through the glass at the front of the plane, sticking your head out of the open turret atop the plane at 3,500 feet, and walking along the bracing above the bomb hatch.
Pilot Ray Fowler said the airplane is just as it would have been when it was constructed, with the exception of the aeronautics equipment, which has been updated.
Fowler has been piloting the B-17 for more than 20 years.
“When you are flying this airplane, you are truly flying. The new airplanes pretty much fly for you these days,” Fowler said. “There is not a lot of automation.”
Fowler said the plane has a fuel range of 1,850 miles and has a wing span of 103 feet, 9 inches. It is powered by four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines.
It could reach up to 300 mph. Monday’s top speed during the nearly 30-minute flight was about 150 mph.
“We hope the veterans will come out. The youngest of our World War II veterans are in their 90s,” he said.
Fowler said many of those veterans come out for an opportunity relive their younger years.
“It’s an unbelievable deal what these guys did for our freedom. So, we don’t pass up an opportunity to say ‘Thank you for what you did.’ We want this plane to keep flying for years to come,” Fowler
“We want everyone to come out and learn about the plane and learn about the Liberty Foundation. We support those programs through the flights and through donations. It’s a really nice airplane,” he said.