LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) – In late July of 1945, a shiny new airframe rolled off the assembly line in Long Beach, California. The ensuing 70 years saw the big bomber, which went on to become the famous World War II Flying Fortress Texas Raiders, take flight both for military and civilian action.
Now as a flying museum for the Commemorative Air Force, the plane stops at the Little Rock Clinton National Airport as a part of her Spring 2017 tour.
The United States built over 12,700 B-17s, but fewer than a dozen still fly today. The Commemorative Air Force B-17 Texas Raiders was the first Flying Fortress to be restored solely for the purpose of education and use as a flying museum, and it is one of the most accurately restored B-17s. In addition to its paint job in the colors of the "Mighty Eighth" Air Force, the plane houses machine guns and period-specific equipment.
See inside a historic, refurbished B17
The Douglas Corporation originally constructed the aircraft under a lease from Boeing. Although this specific plane did not fight in World War II, the United States Navy commissioned it as an Air-Sea Rescue Aircraft with a stationing in New Jersey. The plane’s bombing bay was refitted to carry a Higgins lifeboat, the same model that Allied troops used to storm the Normandy beaches during the D-Day invasion. It was remodeled and used during the Korean Conflict.
Collecting, restoring, and flying vintage historical aircraft for more than half a century, the CAF is dedicated to Honoring American Military Aviation through flight, exhibition and remembrance. The educational organization has more than 11,000 members and a fleet of 166 airplanes distributed throughout the country.
Tours of the aircraft are available Monday, May 15 through Thursday, May 18, with prices at $10 for adults, $5 for children, or $20 for a family (of up to five members). Flights on the Flying Fortress start at $475. Those wishing to fly on Texas Raiders can call 1-855-FLY-A-B17 (1-855-359-2217) or reserve on line here.