Famous plane visits Craig Air Field

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 16, 2004

With the Battle of Selma coming to town in a week, one southern belle arrived fashionably early, unfortunately she had to leave before the ball.

A working reproduction of the famous Memphis Belle, the same plane featured the movie, &uot;The Memphis Belle&uot; stopped in Selma early Thursday afternoon. On a trip to Meridian Air Force Base for an air show, the crew had to stop at Craig Air Field to wait for the Blue Angels to finish practicing above Meridian.

The B-17 bomber, an original built for duty in World War II, was painted to replicate the Memphis Belle for use in movies and air shows by the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation.

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Since then it’s traveled all over, appearing just about anyplace plane and War World II buffs are willing to go and see it.

The pilot and co-pilot &045; both retired &045; spend most of the summer in the air flying the old B-17.

And it’s a lot of work.

The bomber lacks many of the modern conveniences other pilots enjoy, like power steering. The four-engine plane holds 148 gallons of oil, burns two gallons an hour, produces 48,000 in Horsepower, can fly 180 mph, at about 20,000 feet.

But like a good southern belle, the plane has a softer side as well.

Built in January, 1945, the plane’s actual combat history isn’t entirely clear.

Whitehouse did say it spent some time as a transport plane in the Korean War, and was later used to drop water for desert troopers.

MAR bought the plane in 1976 and restored it to her current splendor.

The original Memphis Belle was the first daytime bomber to fly a full tour of duty &045; 25 missions &045; without losing the plane or a crew member to German fighters, making her one of the most famous planes used in World War II. She now sits in a museum in Memphis.

The missions were so dangerous, that of the 12,500 B-17s made during World War II, only 4,000 survived the war, the Belle being one of them.

Now only nine of the famous B-17 flying fortresses survive.

Today, in Meridian, the replicated Belle will meet up with the original’s captain, Col. Robert K. Morgan.