The Wings of Freedom Tour is coming to Leesburg International Airport.
The event, put on by the Collings Foundation, will feature three vintage World War II aircraft – a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a North American P-51 Mustang. The planes will be on display from Thursday, Feb. 7 through Sunday, Feb. 10.
The B-17, named “Nine O Nine,” is one of only nine Flying Fortresses still operational in the United States. B-17s dropped 640,000 tons of bombs on Germany and the aircraft, a four-engine heavy bomber, served in every WW II combat zone.
The B-24 Liberator, known as “Witchcraft,” is the only plane of its type still flying anywhere in the world. Approximately 18,500 of the bombers were produced, including more than 4,600 made by Ford.
The P-51 Mustang “Toulouse Nuts” fighter that will be on display is the winner of the prestigious Grand Champion award for restoration. During the war, P-51s were used as fighter escorts for bombers flying from England to Germany.
The iconic plane also is synonymous with the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American pilots who flew hundreds of escort missions in P-51s marked with red tails and never lost a bomber to an enemy fighter.
Those coming to the display, which will be located at the north end of the main ramp at 8807 Airport Blvd., will be able to explore the aircraft inside and out. The price is $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Discounted rates are available for school groups.
Visitors also can take 30-minute flights aboard these rare airplanes. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person. And those who want a real adventure can get some “stick time” in the P-51. The flight training is $2,400 for a half hour and $3,400 for a full hour. For reservations and information on flight experiences, call 800-568-8924.
The hours for the grand tours of the vintage aircraft will be 2 to 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 10. The paid flights normally are scheduled before and after the ground tour times.
The Collings Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation devoted to organizing “living history” events that allow people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation.
The Nationwide Wings of Freedom Tour is celebrating its 30th year and visits an average of 110 cities in more than 35 states annually. Since its start, tens of millions of people have seen the B-17, B-24 & P-51 on display at many different locations.
The Wings of Freedom Tour also is a flying tribute to the crews who served aboard those planes; the ground crews who maintained them; the workers who built them; the soldiers, sailors and airmen they helped protect; and the citizens and families who share the freedom they helped preserve.
B-17s and B-24s were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish the mission. Despite the risks of anti-aircraft fire, attacking enemy fighters and the harrowing environment of sub-zero temperatures, many B-17s and B-24s safely brought their crews home.
The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers’ “Little Friend” – saving countless crews from attacking German fighters. After the war, many aircraft were scrapped for their raw aluminum to rebuild a nation in post-war prosperity, and therefore, very few were spared.
At each stop along the tour, members of the Collings Foundation encourage local veterans and their families to visit and share their experiences and stories with the public. And for aviation enthusiasts, the tour provides the opportunity for the museum to come to the visitor – not the other way around!
Those interested in learning more can visit www.collingsfoundation.org.