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Civil Air Patrol Helps Showcase Rare Military Aircraft

Cadets with B-17
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Cadets from the 300th Composite Squadron of the Waxhaws and the 111th Search and Rescue Squadron pose in front of the B-17 bomber "Madras Maiden" following their tour of the vintage B-17. Photo Credit: 1st Lt. H.J. Bentley III, CAP (click image to view full size)
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Concord Regional Airport Hosts B-17 Flying Fortress

10/5/2017––As World War II raged around the world, one American bomber rose to prominence, darkening the skies of occupied Europe. The Boeing B-17 became known as the “flying fortress” because of its 13 mounted .50 caliber machine guns and its ability to take copious amounts of damage and still bring her aircrews home. Of the 12,731 B-17’s produced from 1936 till 1945, there are only 46 remaining B-17 airframes around the world and only 11 of those remain airworthy today.

Recently the Liberty Foundation came to the Concord Regional Airport and flew one of those 11 B-17’s around Charlotte in an effort to raise money to honor wartime bravery and to put more B-17s back in the air. Weeks before, at the request of Concord Regional Airport, the Liberty Foundation contacted Major Brett Benson and the Civil Air Patrol for volunteers to support their event.
Major Brett Benson, of the 121st Charlotte Senior Squadron, led a joint operation including additional members of the Concord Regional Airport, the Charlotte Senior Squadron, the South Piedmont Senior Squadron (NC-137), and the 111th Search and Rescue Squadron.
During the event, the cadets and senior members assisted with parking visitors and directing them to transportation to the main terminal; staffing cordoned ramp areas for safety and security; manning a CAP recruiting booth; and providing visitor escorts between the visitor viewing area over to the "Madras Maiden" aircraft located on the ramp at the Concord Regional Airport. This visit marks the first time this rare aircraft, the “Madras Maiden,” has been in the Charlotte area.
Major Benson said, “I would personally like to thank the over 20 CAP volunteers that donated their time and efforts to help maintain a safe environment for spectators to enjoy this beautiful piece of American military history. Our cadets and senior members handled themselves with the utmost professionalism while monitoring the flight line, directing guests to parking, and interacting with the public.”
Jonathan Eads of the Liberty Foundation and the B-17’s primary mechanic says the idea is to show today’s youth and aircraft enthusiasts the risk that brave young men and women of the Greatest Generation took to fight in WWII. Estimates place the number of World War II veterans dying each day at over 1,500. This aircraft represents that legacy of valor and courage. Eads added, “Civil Air Patrol cadets are a perfect audience for us because they are our future leaders and the airmen of tomorrow.”
The Liberty Foundation, a non-profit flying museum, aims to preserve historic military aircraft and the stories of the men and women who served on them. The Liberty Foundation has traversed the nation with B-17s for years. "The Madras Maiden was brought to supplement the Liberty Foundation’s flight schedule after a forced landing and subsequent fire severely damaged the Liberty Belle,” said John Shuttleworth one of the pilots of the Maiden. Shuttleworth added, “The Liberty Belle is currently under repair and we expect to have her airborne again in the next 18 to 36 months.”
The B-17 was utilized in every theater of operation during World War II, but was operated primarily by the 8th Air Force in Europe. Operating from bases across the United Kingdom, a typical B-17 mission often lasted for more than eight hours and struck targets deep inside enemy-occupied Europe. During the war, B-17’s dropped 640,036 tons of ordinance on European targets in daylight raids.
The Madras Maiden, B-17G 44-8543 was built by Lockheed-Vega and accepted by the USAF on October 17, 1944. The B-17 was assigned to the Flight Test Branch at Wright Field and modified to be a “Pathfinder” aircraft and equipped with the H2X “Mickey” radar system in place of the ball turret and never saw combat. The aircraft spent its entire military career as a research and development aircraft. From the B-17’s that were converted to become “Pathfinder” aircraft, Madras Maiden is the only one left in existence.
In 1959, it was sold to a private company and used to transport produce from the Caribbean to Florida. Four years later, it was sold to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and used as a fire ant sprayer. In 2013, then “Chuckie” was sold to the Erickson Collection, an aviation museum in Madras, Oregon. Restored to her combat configuration and painted in the colors of the 381st Bomb Group, and sporting the Madras Maiden nose-art, she flies today to honor our veterans, educate current and future generations as to the high price of freedom and to preserve our aviation heritage.
This year’s Salute to Veteran’s tour will be continuing on to Columbia, SC, Charleston, SC, Chattanooga, TN, Louisville, KY, Nashville, TN and Memphis, TN after leaving Charlotte. On 27 and 28 September, CAP will again be providing similar support to Concord Regional Airport with ground tours of the Spirit of Freedom, a Berlin Airlift C-54 flying museum.