The Movie Memphis Belle’s Engines Run Again

Movie star Flying Fortress returns to life after more than two years of restoration work

A screenshot of the Movie Memphis Belle's first engine runs since deep maintenance began. [Photo via Palm Springs AIr Museum]
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


By Adam Estes

This weekend the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress known as the Movie Memphis Belle conducted its first engine runs at the Palm Springs Air Museum (PSAM) in California since its arrival at the museum on November 13th, 2021. The aircraft is owned by the Military Aircraft Restoration Corporation (MARC), whose founder the late David Tallichet flew the bomber to the UK to partake in the filming of the movie Memphis Belle (1990), and is on loan to the PSAM.

During this initial ground run, three of the aircraft’s four engines (#1, #2, and #4) were run at different power settings but the aircraft’s right-inboard engine (#3) required more work before it could be test run. In the leadup to the engine run other work was being done to get the Belle airworthy again after its time on loan to the National Warplane Museum at Geneseo, NY (as previously reported by Vintage Aviation News), from replacing a section of the wing spars to adjusting tail control cables and restoring the floorboards in the waist section.

Museum officials told us they hope the Movie Memphis Belle may return to the skies before this summer is out. Once airworthy the Movie Memphis Belle will be flown to local airshows alongside other aircraft based out of Palm Springs. However the museum and MARC will not be offering rides to paying passengers, and when the aircraft is not scheduled to be in an airshow’s flight roster it will be on the static ramp for attendees to visit.

Propellers installed on engines 3 and 4, with bins to collect oil draining from the cylinders. [Photo by Adam Estes]

It should also be noted that the Movie Memphis Belle (B-17G 44-83546, N3703G) is often confused with the original Memphis Belle, B-17F 41-24485 which is widely acknowledged as the first B-17 of the Eighth Air Force to return safely back to the United States after completing a 25-mission tour over German-occupied Europe, making a war bond tour around the U.S. upon its return. After decades of display in several locations throughout Memphis, Tennessee the original Memphis Belle was shipped to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, and after a meticulous 13-year restoration effort was unveiled for display in the museum’s WWII gallery on May 17th, 2018 (the 75th anniversary of completing its 25th combat mission), where it remains on display.

Be sure to watch this space for updates on the Movie Memphis Belle as it nears its first post-restoration flight!
A 3/4 view of the inboard section of the B-17’s right wing with flaps extended, and the floorboards (left) undergoing sanding and refurbishment. [Photo by Adam Estes]

Visit www.palmspringsairmuseum.org for more information on the Movie Memphis Belle‘s progress and about other projects at the PSAM.

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3 Comments

  1. I visited Geneseo Museum,in 2018–that B-17-wasn’t there,–just the “oil stains”-where it was parked !!-the owners of the Museum said that the “owners-of B17-had some kind of drama with the Museum,-& took it away.-they didn’t want to say much more than,that about it.-Anyway-Geneseo,-is a great Museum to visit,don’t miss !!

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