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Famed "Liberty Belle" bomber burns just weeks after visit to SLC

By David Self Newlin | Posted - Jun. 14, 2011 at 4:26 p.m.

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

CHICAGO -- On Sep. 9, 1944, a B-17 bomber barely made it back to home base after being damaged over Dusseldorf. Eight of its sister ships didn't make it back that day.

Now, more than 67 years later, a replica of that air plane, the "Liberty Belle," has finally joined those fallen airships, consumed in flames.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the plane went up in smoke after making an emergency landing the morning of June 13, outside of Chicago. The cause of the emergency was not immediately ascertainable.

The Associated Press said that the pilot reported a fire shortly after takeoff, but was unable to take the plane back to the runway, and so set it down in a field, where it set ablaze.

Seven people were on board the plane, though all were able to escape the plane and avoid serious injury.

The plane had been in Salt Lake City for the week of May 2, promoting a show-and-tell at the Salt Lake Jet Center, where patrons could pay to fly in the plane in order to help support the cost of its upkeep.

The original "Liberty Belle" flew 64 combat missions, and was scrapped in 1945, according to the Liberty Foundation website, the foundation which owned the replica.

The "Liberty Belle" that went down Monday never saw combat, but did have a varied history, going from storage to being a test plane for Pratt & Whitney's prototype engines. In the late 60s, it was donated to the Connecticut Aeronautical Historic Association.

In 1979, the "Liberty Belle" was attacked by, of all things, a tornado, while on display at an air museum in Connecticut. Another plane was thrown into the bomber's mid-section, causing the plane to wrecked for almost ten years.

Eventually, the plane was purchased, renamed the "Liberty Belle," and painstakingly restored for over a decade. She took to the air again in 2004, and had been going steady until the crash outside of Chicago.

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David Self Newlin


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