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One of only 12 air worthy B-17 Flying Fortresses lands at Wiley Post Field open for tours.

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WILEY POST FIELD, OKLAHOMA -- Too see it is one thing.

But to watch an old B-17 Flying Fortress roar to life, to feel the four Wright Cyclone engines spin those big props, is to see history roar to life as well.

"The historical significance of this airplane," says Pilot Connie, "goes way beyond the pleasure of flying it."

The Madras Maiden, as they call her now, came off the assembly line in late 1944.

She was too late joining the 381st Bomber Group in England to see combat but that's a good thing for us because after life as a weather researcher, cargo transporter, and even an ant sprayer the Liberty Foundation took her over a couple of years back to continue an important world-wide tour.

"It's a big, heavy airplane," says Bowlin. "But it was built for a mission it performed very well."

Pilot Connie Bowlin has taken this ship and the famous Memphis Belle on lots of these tours.

She says they bring back memories even B-17 veterans didn't know they still kept.

Bowlin continues, "When the WWII veterans were quite a bit younger they had not talked about the airplane so much. When they came out to see it they would share their stories so it was really nice. Memories came back. It was really great."

Bowlin says piloting a Flying Fortress is kind of like driving a dump truck.

It's slow and heavy.

But there are maybe a dozen of these airplanes left in the world that can still get into the air.

As the men and women who flew them during World War II become rare as well, Bonnie and crew see their mission as more important now than ever.

"Exactly," she agrees. "They will not be around forever."

One of these days, no one knows exactly when, there won't be any B-17's to fly or original pilots to ask what it was like.

This slow air race continues for now with people like Bowlin at the controls and as many historians as possible with cameras rolling.

The Madras Maiden B-17 will be open for public flights and ground tours both Saturday and Sunday May 12-13, 2018.

To book a flight, tour, or learn more about the this Flying Fortress go to http://www.libertyfoundation.org or call (918) 340-0243.

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