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Take A Ride In This Pristine B-17G Flying Fortress Purchased For Just $5000 In 1959

Built By Lockheed-Vega, “Madras Maiden” Is The Only Radar-Equipped Pathfinder B-17 Left

Photo Credit: KWCH News Wichita Falls

The Boeing B-17G Madras Maiden, 44-8543 CN 7943-DL and registered as N3701G, was built by Lockheed-Vega and accepted by the United States Army Air Force at Lockheed-Vega’s plant in Burbank California on October 17, 1944. She was one of 2,750 B-17s built by Lockheed-Vega in partnership with Boeing. 44-8543 was first assigned to the Flight Test Branch at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. She was modified to be a Pathfinder aircraft and as such was equipped with the H2X Mickey (AN/APS-15) bomb-through-overcast radar system in place of the ventral ball turret. Between 1944 and 1959 44-8543 spent its entire military career as a research and development aircraft. She is the sole remaining Pathfinder B-17. Posted by Ed Whisenant, enjoy the video of his flight aboard Madras Maiden.

As a military aircraft 44-8543 spent most of her time based in Ohio doing weather research and testing as well as being loaned out for other long-term test programs. Flown to the boneyard at Davis Monthan Air Force Base (AFB) in 1959, she was declared surplus the same year. 

Purchased for the value price of $5,026 from the Air Force in August 1959, 44-8543 was registered as N3701G in 1960 (a value of about $42,000 in today’s dollars). She began a career unremarkable for B-17s flying during the 1960s, hauling produce between Florida and the Caribbean and doing what she could to eradicate fire ants as an aerial sprayer in Alabama. She was damaged in 1976 and sold three years later. Restored by the Vintage Flying Museum in Dallas and the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach to her original military configuration and perfected by the Tillamook Air Museum in Oregon. Previously flown as Chuckie for several years, 44-8543 now wears the colors of the 381st Bomb Group.

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Bill Walton

Written by Bill Walton

Bill Walton is a life-long aviation enthusiast and expert in aircraft recognition. As a teenager Bill helped his engineer father build an award-winning T-18 homebuilt airplane in their Wisconsin basement. Bill is a freelance writer, an avid sailor, engineer, announcer, husband, father, uncle, mentor, coach, and Navy veteran. Bill lives north of Houston TX with his wife and son under the approach path to KDWH runway 17R, which means they get to look up at a lot of airplanes. A very good thing.

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