‘Wings of Freedom’ Tour
On 29-31 May 2009, a P-51, B-24 and B-17 were flown into McClellan Airfield in Sacramento, CA, by The Collings Foundation. Naturally, I went to see the planes.
On a personal note, in 1944, when I was 9 years old, my mother worked at the Pentagon. (Good background for someone who would start a magazine titled Military.) She later told me she knew when D-Day would occur. I still remember one day when the teacher let the class out into the yard so we could see a B-17 up in the sky. It was considered a behemoth. While other kids wanted to be pilots, I instead, for some reason, wanted to be the top turret gunner. I paid 25¢ for a book about The Mighty Eighth. My wife, Helen (who often answers the phone when you call Military), remembers seeing a B-17 at Dalton Airport in Flushing, MI (near Flint) shortly after the WWII was over. With an interest in radio communication, even before I went into the U.S. Army Signal Corps, I had bought a surplus BC-348, which was the receiver on the B-17. (The Amateur Radio call sign for Military is W6MIL.)
The Collings Foundation, located in Stow, MA (www.collingsfoundation.org), also has a museum with a variety of aircraft and is currently restoring something very well known to many of our readers: a Huey helicopter.
The B-17 is certainly one of the great icons of our history. Though, I’ve talked to many B-24 crew-men who will be quick to tell you that the B-24 flew faster, farther and had a greater bomb-load. I think what made the B-17 such an attraction was that vertical tail. It may be similar to the fact that while the Hurricane shot down more German planes during the Battle of Britain, the sleekness of the Spitfire captured the imagination.
The Collings Foundation takes the aircraft around the country to honor the brave men who flew those planes and also to give younger generations an appreciation. For a donation of $425, a person attending the show can experience a flight aboard either the B-17 or B-24. Walk-through tours of the aircraft are $12 for adults, and $6 for children 12 and under for access to all of the aircraft. WWII veterans get into the ground tours at no charge. Keep in mind that it costs about $4,000-an-hour of flight time to keep those great planes in the sky going around the country.
UPCOMING “WINGS OF FREEDOM” TOUR DATES
1-3: Denver, CO, Rocky Mountain Metro Airport
3-6: Ft. Collins, CO, Ft. Collins-Loveland Municipal
6-8: Pueblo, CO, Pueblo Memorial Airport
8-10: Salina, KS, Salina Municipal Airport
10-12: Kansas City, MO, Charles Wheeler Downtown
13-15: Omaha, NE, Eppley Airfield
17-20: Minneapolis, MD, Anoka County-Blaine Airport
20-22: Sheboygan, WI, Sheboygan County Memorial Airport
22-24: Waukegan, IL, Waukegan Regional Airport
24-26, West Chicago, IL, Dupage Airport
27-29: Valparaiso, IN, Porter County Municipal Airport
29-31: Kankakee, IL, Greater Kankakee Airport
31-3 August: Chicago, IL, Chicago Executive Airport
Each year the Wings of Freedom Tour reaches 150+ locations.