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Northeast Pilots Group Message Board › Restoring the Liberty Belle B-17

Restoring the Liberty Belle B-17

Clark B.
Greenwich, CT
Post #: 209

My name is Ray Fowler and I serve as the Chief Pilot for the Liberty Foundation. While my “real” job is flying as an airline pilot, as well as an F-16 pilot in the Air National Guard, my passion is with WWII aviation history. I have been deployed on multiple combat tours in Iraq as part of “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and it has been an honor to follow in the footsteps of our World War II Veterans. Up until June of last year, I was blessed to be involved flying our B-17 “Liberty Belle” throughout the country as a living piece of history.

I want to thank you for the support you gave us previously by taking a flight in our B-17. You may not have heard the news, but last June we almost completely lost the “Liberty Belle” due to a fire that consumed much of the fuselage. Thankfully, no one was hurt but we were forced to suspend our tour and determine if how we could continue as a foundation. Since 2004 until last year, thousands of people had an opportunity to go aloft in our beautiful B-17 and for you, I hope your flight proved to be a was a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience!

With the heavy damage, the big question was would it ever be possible to re-restore the aircraft? I am excited to tell you that we will restore her to fly again! And even more exciting news is… this month we reached an agreement to lease the B-17 “Memphis Belle” and will be back on tour this year! Not to be confused with the real “Memphis Belle” (which is being restored for static display at Wright-Patterson AFB Museum), we will be touring the “movie” B-17 used by Warner Bros. for the 1990 movie “Memphis Belle” which carries the historic markings found on the actual aircraft. Starting in early June, we will be back on a limited National tour. So hopefully in the near future, you can take another flight with us again in the movie “Memphis Belle”!

However, the main purpose of this e-mail is to seek your help. We have made a staggering financial commitment to get a B-17 back on tour along with pledging to restore our beloved “Liberty Belle”. Since 2004, we were able to mostly fund a large portion of our flight operations through the sales of flights, ground tours and merchandise. However, with the rising cost of operation, especially in regards to the price of fuel, combined with a $3 million restoration commitment, we are in desperate need to find additional support. We need your help to keep the “Memphis Belle” flying and get the “Liberty Belle” restored to fly into the future.

I know that this is not the best time to ask for donations, as everyone I know is struggling. However, any donation amount, no matter large or small, would be greatly appreciated and welcomed. Our “Liberty Belle” has flown over 20,000 passengers, given hundreds of thousands of ground tours and been seen by millions worldwide. As such, we are hoping that we can raise enough through small donations to survive. Again, we hope that we can generate enough funds to keep the “Memphis Belle” out on tour, so every donation received will go directly to the Liberty Belle’s restoration fund. If we are successful in fundraising, it is not unrealistic to have her re-restored and flying within 5 years!

We not only are requesting your donation, but a personal story about your “Liberty Belle” experience. We respectively ask for your personal experience and, if you have one, your picture relating to the B-17. Whether your donation is made in the honor or memory of one of the tens of thousands of airman that served in the B-17 or about your personal B-17 experience, any narrative provided will eventually be posted on the Liberty Foundation website and shared by everyone who visits our site. I believe these personal narratives and experiences about our “Liberty Belle” will ultimately make the most amazing and compassionate stories and will aid in our recovery. I am looking forward to reading your story and I intend to tell a few of my own!

I want to share a letter received by a WWII veteran, which is only one of the thousands of letters we have received over the years:

“My great grandson and I enjoyed flying in the “Liberty Belle” this weekend. The ability to take him into the airplane and later sit in the pilot seat was a great thrill for us both. Thank God there are organizations such as the Liberty Foundation that will continue, as long as possible, bringing living history to our citizens and to the airports of America. When we arrived home, he walked up to his mother and said, “Mom, I just had the most wonderful day of my life!”. Thank the Liberty Foundation for making a young boy (and an old man) have a response like this!”

Again, we thank everyone of the well-wishers that have sent us their support. I feel I am writing on behalf of all brave Americans who flew Flying Fortresses over 65 years ago to preserve the freedoms we enjoy today. Those freedoms are still worth fighting for, provided we don’t forget them. If you believe in our mission, please send in solutions or suggestions for helping with our future! With each new day, we are getting a great number of e-mails of people hoping to see the aircraft back in the air someday, and like us, are hoping for a miracle. It will take a significant amount of donations and effort to make this a possibility.

We are up to the challenge and as a 501(c)(3) non-profit museum, every penny donated is 100% tax deductible.


Ray Fowler
Liberty Foundation
11564 East 7th Street
Tulsa OK 74128

(Even the smallest donation received is greatly appreciated and we will make every attempt to recognize those who can contribute higher amounts. Everyone that donates $100 or more will receive a special picture of our “Liberty Belle” in-flight and $500 will receive a special edition signed Liberty Belle print. Prior to our loss, there were only 13 flying B-17s world-wide out of 12,732 produced. We will re-build our aircraft and continue to so our part to keep this history alive!)
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