by Daisy Silos
For the 14th year, the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour landed at the Frontiers of Flight Museum. The flying exhibition has been touring all over the country for 29 seasons.
Comprised mostly of volunteers, the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour travels to 40 states and 120 cities for ten months out of the year. The tour usually stays about two days per stop, but they stay at the Frontiers of Flight Museum for at least five days. The tour was originally scheduled from March 28 to April 1, but due to bad weather, it had to be delayed until March 29. The tour educates people about aircrafts used during World War II.
“This started as a way to have veterans reconnect with the aircrafts they served on,” Jamie Mitchell, flight coordinator for Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom, said. “Thirty years ago the vets who are now in their nineties were in their sixties or just retired, and this was a great thing for them to do, because they would introduce the public to their aircraft. We were basically doing a publicity tour of the aircraft, and over time as more and more of those guys passed away, it became more.”
The tour features planes used during World War II and offers visitors a flight experience on some of the aircrafts. Prices for the flight experiences range from $400 to $3,200 depending on the plane and length of the ride.
“The prices for the TF-51D Mustang are different, because it’s an actual flight training,” Mitchell said. “They’re going to go with an instructor, and we’re going to teach them the basics of flying a fighter plane from the Second World War. They’re going to do aerobatics, and they put it in the log book.”
The planes on tour change from year to year. This year, the tour featured the Boeing B-17G “Flying Fortress,” the Consolidated B-24J “Liberator” Witchcraft, and the North American TF-51D Mustang “Toulouse Nuts.”
“The tour is like no other in the United States,” Rick Kelly, pilot for Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Rick Kelly, said. “It shows the airpower of the United States during WWII, and it makes people realize and live United States history. If you think about the planes that are featured, the B-17 there’s only seven of them still flying, and we also have the only flying B-24, so it’s kind of a neat deal.”
In addition to the flight experiences, the tour also offers visitors the opportunity to see certain planes in action and even schedule a walking tour inside of the plane. One of the aircrafts that did a flight demonstration for an audience was the TF-51D Mustang.
One of the members of the audience was Bill Stallings who visits the Wings of Freedom Tour every year.
“I’ve been here a number of times just to see the planes,” Stallings said. “The P-51 is a pretty special airplane. It sounds powerful and it’s pretty impressive. A number of them were made in Grand Prairie during the war, and my dad actually worked in the plant there. It’s a good reason for me to come back, and see it every year.”
Next year while celebrating its 30th anniversary, the tour will feature a couple of different planes like a P-40 and a B-25, which was originally scheduled to be on tour this year, but was unfortunately at another stop due to maintenance issues.
“Our focus now is basically giving the past a future. We want to get kids out here and get them excited about this,” Mitchell said. “They learn maybe two or three pages of a textbook in high school about WWII, but they don’t really have an appreciation. It’s important for us to bridge that gap between this generation and the Greatest Generation to make sure that in another 30 years, these planes are still flying, and they appreciate those sacrifices that were made then to give them what they have now.”