Popular display at Genesee Warplane Museum too expensive to keep

Jan 30, 2020

The National Warplane Museum in Geneseo is losing one of its popular attractions, the B-17 bomber that appeared in the 1990 movie "Memphis Belle."

But officials at the Livingston County nonprofit said there's a chance the aircraft may come back for visits in future summers.

Credit nationalwarplanemuseum.com

Finance director Bob Dauer said the museum has to return “The Movie Memphis Belle” to its owners because it can't afford to operate and insure it.

“Over the last four years, we've had dramatic increases in the cost of insuring the plane, as well as the cost of spare parts and the labor associated with installing those spare parts, rebuilding engines and so on," he said.

Dauer said fuel costs amount to about $1,000 an hour to fly the Belle.

He said the Belle, one of only 35 B-17s in existence, is currently in storage. But he said they are starting discussions with the plane's owner on possibly bringing it back to the museum in the summer months.

“We would not be doing rides, we would be putting it on display, give tours, and possibly do some demonstration flights," he said.

The movie that the plane appeared in was about one of the first U.S. Army B-17 heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions.

B-17 “Flying Fortress” Fact Sheet 

(courtesy National Warplane Museum)


Manufacturer: Boeing (Operator: US Army Air Corps

Nickname: “Flying Fortress”

Year Designed: 1935

Number Built: 12,731

WWII Involvement:

Served as Heavy Bomber

Used for daylight bombing German targets.  Played large role in destroying Nazi war-machine

First allied Strategic Bomber

B-17s were known for taking damage, yet still limping home


10 B-17s remain airworthy today, ~12 on static display or restoration

B-17 “Movie Memphis Belle” portrayed the original “Memphis Belle” in the 1990 film.

“Movie Memphis Belle” originally built as “G” model, restored to “F” model for film

Airframe built in 1944, AC #44-85346

Specifications (B-17F):

Crew: 10 (Pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier/nose gunner, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, waist gunners (2), ball turret gunner, tail gunner)

Length: 74 ft 4 in (22.66 m)

Wingspan: 103 ft 9 in (31.62 m)

Height: 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m)

Wing area: 1,420 sq ft (131.92 m2)

Empty weight: 36,135 lb (16,391 kg)

Loaded weight: 54,000 lb (24,500 kg)

Max. takeoff weight: 65,500 lb (29,700 kg)

Powerplant: 4 × Wright R-1820-97 "Cyclone" turbosupercharged radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each


Maximum speed: 287 mph (249 kn, 462 km/h)

Cruise speed: 182 mph (158 kn, 293 km/h)

Range: 2,000 mi (1,738 nmi, 3,219 km) with 2,700 kg (6,000 lb) bombload

Service ceiling: 35,600 ft (10,850 m)

Rate of climb: 900 ft/min (4.6 m/s)


Guns: 11 × .50 in (12.7 mm) M2 Browning machine guns in 8 positions (2 in the Bendix chin turret, 2 on nose cheeks, 2 staggered waist guns, 2 in upper Sperry turret, 2 in Sperry ball turret in belly, 2 in the tail and one firing upwards from radio compartment behind bomb bay)

Bombs: Short range missions (<400 mi): 8,000 lb (3,600 kg), Long range missions (≈800 mi): 4,500 lb (2,000 kg), Overload: 17,600 lb (7,800 kg)