Memphis Belle Visits North Carolina

Sep 19, 2014

The Memphis Belle, one of the last remaining B-17 planes from World War II, is making a stop this weekend in the Triangle.  The bomber was made famous in the movie, The Memphis Belle.  The United States built more than 12,000 B-17s beginning in the 1940s.  There are only 10 left that can still fly. [Click on the photo gallery above to look inside the plane.]

The pinup art painted near the nose of the Memphis Belle
Credit Eric Mennel / WUNC

"I like to tell people they can experience in the airplane all five senses," said Bob Hill, who pilots the plane now. "There is a taste to it as well that is very different.  And it is about as close as you can come to experiencing perhaps a little bit of what it was like for these airmen during World War II."

Members of the public can purchase a ride on the Memphis Belle for $450, or tour the plane for free.  The Memphis Belle will be taking off from the Raleigh Executive/Sanford Lee County airport through the weekend.

'It was 40 below zero in this airplane as they flew combat. If you were without an oxygen mask you could probably survive two minutes and you were dead.'

Despite this plane's Hollywood past, the actual airmen who flew in B-17's had anything but a glamorous mission.

"It was 40 below zero in this airplane as they flew combat," said Hill. "If you were without an oxygen mask you could probably survive two minutes and you were dead.  So not only did they have to battle the enemy, they had to battle the environment."

There are only 10  B-17's still flying today.  Visitors can see the Memphis Belle at the Raleigh Executive/Sanford Lee County airport tomorrow and Sunday until 5 p.m.