Albert McMahan exits the B-17 after a short flight Feb. 24 at  DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.
Albert McMahan exits the B-17 after a short flight Feb. 24 at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

Albert McMahan had no doubt about how it felt to climb into a B-17 for a ride decades after he served as a gunner on one of the planes during World War II.

“It was wonderful. Absolutely,” the 93-year-old veteran said. “At one time I was flying in that airplane and my life depended on it. Today, it was just for pleasure.”

McMahan says he flew 25 B-17 missions over Europe between December 1942 and June 1943. On his last, 220 of the bombers crossed the sky, he said.

On Feb. 24, McMahan got a chance to fly on a B-17 again. The Liberty Foundation, a nonprofit flying museum, kicked off its 2014 “Salute to Veterans” tour with demonstration flights from DeKalb-Peachtree Airport of the “Movie Memphis Belle.” The Belle is one of 14 B-17 “Flying Fortresses” still flying, the foundation said in a press release.

The organization plans to offer public B-17 flights from PDK airport on March 1 and March 2. The experience takes about 45 minutes, with 30 minutes of that in the air, the group said in the release. The foundation charges $410 for Liberty Foundation members and $450 for non-members, the foundation said.  Passengers can become a Liberty Foundation Member for $40 and receive the member discount for family and friends.

The foundation also offers 20-minute flights on a restored P-51 fighter, at a cost of $1,595 for members, the foundation said.

McMahan, who’s 93 and lives in Lawrenceville, says he’s flown on B-17s four times in the last 10 to 15 years. He has nothing but good things to say about the airplane.

“On two occasions, they saved my life,” he said. “My first mission and my last mission. They saved my life. They got me back home.”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.