The Memphis Belle — which appeared in a 1990 film by the same name — is undergoing some mechanical work before it continues on its flying tour on Monday. However, visitors may take a look at the plane until then, according to airport
The airport is open from daylight until around 6 p.m., including the weekend, and is located at 1800 Airport Drive in Ball Ground. There is no admission cost.
John Marinko, vice chairman of the Cherokee Regional Airport Authority, said the airport had been home to another B-17 that burned in a fire a couple of years ago in northern Illinois.
The Memphis Belle, he said, will be based at the airport for a year.
“It goes to different shows throughout the country but it’s basically based at Cherokee County for the next year,” Marinko said.
The Memphis Belle on display is not the same aircraft that flew bomber missions over Europe during WW II. In 1945, it was accepted by the military at the end of the war, but did not see combat action.
“The government used it for aerial mapping up until 1959 and then sold it as surplus for just over $2,000,” said Scott Maher, director of operations for the Liberty Foundation, a non-profit flying museum that leases the plane.
“From there, it was converted to a fire bomber and used to fight forest fires up until the late 1970s. It was bought by a gentleman named David Tallichet, who was a B-17 pilot in World War II with the 100th Bomb Group. He bought the airplane, restored it and flew it for years.”
In 2007, when Tallichet died, ownership went to his family, said Maher.
While the Liberty Foundation is based in Douglas, all of the maintenance work on the Memphis Belle is done at the Cherokee airport, said Maher.
The Boeing Aircraft Company of Seattle produced over 12,000 B-17s between 1935 and 1945. Known as a “Flying Fortress,” the B-17 was admired for its ability to withstand heavy combat damage.
The historic Memphis Belle, which is being restored, was famous for being the first B-17 to complete 25 missions.
According to the Liberty Foundation, the aircraft was placed into active duty at the 8th Air Force in England under the command of Capt. Robert Morgan. It flew from November 1942 to May 1943, during which time it downed eight enemy fighters; dropped a payload of over 60 tons of bombs over Germany, France and Belgium; and flew 148 hours and 50 minutes of combat missions, covering 20,000 combat miles.
After the war, Memphis Mayor Walter Chandler helped save the aircraft from reclamation. The city bought the plane and kept it on display for a number of years. In 1990, a film featuring Harry Connick Jr. was made, based on the final war mission of the Memphis Belle.
Marinko said he hopes publicity surrounding the Memphis Belle’s stay in Cherokee will aid the airport authority’s goal of raising money for the construction of an aircraft museum at the airport, which is publicly-used.
“It would showcase World War II airplanes,” he said.