B-17s, P-51s fly over Air Force museum in salute to Memphis Belle


The rumble of World War II planes soared over the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force on Wednesday in a tribute to the restoration of the restored icon the B-17F Memphis Belle.

Three- B-17 Flying Fortresses and five P-51 Mustangs — flying in from staging airfields at Grimes Field in Urbana and Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Twp. — canceled plans to land after a more than two-hour rain delay, but flew in formation over the museum and cars and trucks parked along the roadside in advance of the Memphis Belle unveiling Wednesday night.

A museum spokesman said the planes could make another attempt to land Thursday or Friday.

Bruce and Marti Balsink, a married couple from Kettering, planned to return a second time if the planes land.

“It’s just fun to see, the nostalgia,” said Marti Balsink, whose father was a World War II bomber pilot. “We’ll just come back again.”

“I like the nostalgia of the airplanes,” said Bruce Balsink, 62. “I like working on them. I’ve gotten to fly in them. There’s no part of it that I don’t find interesting.”

The roll call of bombers included the movie version of the Memphis Belle from the National Warplane Museum in New York, the Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-17 Aluminum Overcast based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and the Yankee Lady from the Yankee Air Force near Detroit.

Jim Enwright, 62, and his daughter Julianne, 20, waited patiently for the clouds to break and the rain to end.

“I’m kind of a motor head,” said Jim Enwright, of Kettering, who’s father was part of a B-17 crew in World War II. “I find that kind of invigorating, kind of inspiring. Those big radial motors coming in. It’s cool. I wish they were landing.”

If the planes land this week, they will stay on static display at the air strip through Friday.

David Predis, 32, of Dayton, an aeronautical engineer at Wright-Patterson, looked into history as he scanned the sky Wednesday.

“I’ve loved airplanes all my life,” he said. “I just think it’s always neat to see aircraft that are still maintained from World War II, such historical significance. The B-17 in particular was an incredible aircraft when it was designed.”

RELATED: Need a way in? AF museum will open extra gate for Memphis Belle gala

Two of the bombers and the P-51 Mustangs flew in from Grimes Field inear Urbana and one bomber— Aluminum Overcast — flew in from Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport. Three World War II trainers scheduled to land didn’t fly because they were not fast enough to keep up with the fighter and bomber formation, museum spokesman Rob Bardua said.

Since 2005, restorers and volunteers at the museum have spent 55,000 hours working on the Memphis Belle, the first U.S. Army Air Forces bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States. On Wednesday evening, it was due to be unveiled in a private ceremony with 1,000 people, including dozens of family members of the late crew, as the centerpiece in a new strategic bombing exhibit. A public-ribbon cutting was scheduled around 9:15 a.m.Thursday in the World War II Gallery.

The celebration, highlighted by the unveiling of the Memphis Belle, the warplane fly-over and more than 160 World War II re-enactors, was expected to draw thousands to the museum at Wright-Patterson.

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