Movie “Memphis Belle” Flying-High, Again
by Austin Hancock
As most readers will know, the famous, combat-veteran Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress known as Memphis Belle (Serial 41-24485) is undergoing restoration to static-display status at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, in Dayton, OH. While this occurs, the B-17G marked in her honor as “The Movie” Memphis Belle (Serial 44-83546, N3703G) has recently returned to flight status at the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, New York. Just in case there remains any confusion between the two aircraft due to their similar names and nose art, for reference, we offer here a quick list of answers to FAQs on the two magnificent Belles:
Original Memphis Belle
- Location: National Museum of the USAF, Dayton, OH
- Status: Restoration to Static Display
- Type: B-17F
- History: One of the first USAAF Bombers to complete her tour of duty over Axis Europe; 25 Missions
“The Movie” Memphis Belle
- Location: National Warplane Museum, Geneseo, NY
- Status: Airworthy
- Type: B-17G (converted in the 1980s to represent an “F” model)
- History: Represented Memphis Belle in the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle,” directed by Michael Caton-Jones
In the winter of 2016, “The Movie” Memphis Belle (now nicknamed the “MMB”) relocated to Geneseo after her touring-stint with The Liberty Foundation came to a close. The late David Tallichet’s company The Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation owns MMB, and has had a decades-long relationship with the National Warplane Museum. They recently entered an agreement with the museum whereby both parties work to keep the vintage bomber properly maintained and operational. The National Warplane Museum had a lot of work on their hands once the MMB arrived at her new home. She needed a lot of maintenance following her national barnstorming tour with the Liberty Foundation. Four propeller overhauls, two engine overhauls, and countless hours spent on inspections and “loose end’ tie-ups kept the volunteers at the museum busy almost 24/7.
The initial aim was to get MMB flying again before the museum’s annual “Greatest Show On Turf” air show in mid-July, but unfortunately the overhaul shop wasn’t able to deliver the final engine in time. Regardless, the volunteers pushed on, and worked tirelessly through the summer. They were rewarded by her first flight on September 5th, and just ten days later, she was flying at her first air show in many, many months during the Open House at Joint Base Andrews in Clinton, Maryland. The next step with MMB is to get her on line with the rest of the National Warplane Museum’s aircraft participating in the “Historic Flight Program.” Visitors will then be able to purchase hour-long flight experiences in “The Movie” Memphis Belle. Museum volunteers plan to have this task completed shortly.
In addition to making the MMB available for rides, the volunteers will address other details with the airframe. For example, the Liberty Foundation removed the B-17’s top-turret to ease passenger loading. The National Warplane Museum still has the rare Sperry gun turret at Geneseo, and is debating the pros and cons of either re-installing it, or fabricating a “dummy” to replicate only the exterior look of the turret, but without the mechanical innards extending into the fuselage behind the pilots. The latter option, while a compromise, would save weight, and make it easier for both fare-paying passengers and crew to move around the cockpit area, while still providing an authentic exterior look for the aircraft. Either way, the “The Movie” Memphis Belle is in excellent hands, and will be flying for a long time to come… authentic war-weathered paint and all!
For more information on the National Warplane Museum, and to book a B-17 ride (in the near future), check out their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/warplanemuseum.