The restored B-17G Flying Fortress “Liberty Belle” made her first flight in more than 14 years Dec. 8.
Owner Don Brooks and the restoration crew at Tom Reilly’s Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum in Kissimmee, Fla., had hoped to make the flight Dec. 7 — Pearl Harbor Day — but electrical problems prevented that.
The following day’s flight was accompanied by well-wishers Syd Jones (conservator for Tom Reilly on the project) flying his AT-6 and Thom Richard of Warbird Adventures, flying his SNJ. More test flights are planned from the Warbird Adventures corner of Kissimmee Municipal Airport (ISM) during December and January.
Brooks, who owns a chain of automobile supply stores in Georgia, created the Liberty Foundation and bought the B-17, now named “Liberty Belle,” as a tribute to “all the men who flew in World War II.” He was inspired by his father’s Eighth Air Force experiences during that war, he says. The plan is for “Liberty Belle” to tour the country, making flights available to people wanting an idea of what flying a B-17 is like — and to those who actually flew the great bombers in World War II.
Restoration of “Liberty Belle” brings the number of flying B-17s in the world up to 13, out of 12,731 that were built. Brooks is in the process of salvaging another B-17 from the icy waters of a lake in Labrador.