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The only airworthy Boeing B17 Flying Fortress to be found in the United Kingdom is based at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) Duxford, Cambridgeshire. It isn't part of the museum collection but is owned by a charitable trust. Like quite a few aircraft of the second world war that are still flying it was constructed at the end of the conflict and didn't see active service. Until 1954 it was used for training and as a research aircraft at Wright Field and Hill AFB, then it was sold to France where it undertook civil work for the government, flying from Creil. In 1975 it was bought by a British businessman and brought to Duxford.
The aircraft was maintained and operated by enthusiasts and painted in the colours of the 457th Bomb Group, USAAF 8th Air Force that was based at RAF Glatton, Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire). Since that time, despite funding crises, technical problems and the death of the guiding force behind the project, it has undertaken a regular programme of flying at air displays and commemorative events in the UK and across Europe. In 1989 the aircraft was one of five airworthy Flying Fortresses used in the film, "Memphis Belle", a William Wyler story about the first B17 to complete twenty five combat missions over enemy territory. The aircraft still carries on one side of its nose a painting of a woman and the words, "Memphis Belle". This a more modest illustration than the painting on the other side of the nose - "Sally B" - shown above.
We saw the aircraft being prepared for flight on the morning of our visit to Duxford and were fortunate to see it depart to perform at a display at Cosford later in the day. My photograph shows the aircraft taxiing on tarmac before it went on to the grass to take off.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 270mm
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On