After a competition that included entries by Richard Serra and Claes Oldenburg among others, the important European collector and gallery director Alfred Schmela commissioned Bladen to create Flying Fortress to stand in front of the engineering school at the University of Düsseldorf. The project was canceled after Schmela’s sudden death. Bladen wrote tellingly of Flying Fortress at the time of the commission:
The motivation of this form was to produce the illusion of a stationary object moving through space yet anchored to the earth. Not to give one that much time to dwell on it but more to feel as it rushes by. There is a front and a back and two sides but only one direction.