B-17 Flight :
Wings of Freedom Tour is a Historical and Educational Event for All Ages.
It had been one of the best summers in Connecticut in years. Relaxing on a spectacular Thursday afternoon was priceless. Suddenly, the windows began to shake as the increasing thunder of low flying aircrafts became louder, then deafening. I knew that things were going to get interesting real fast. You never know when your next travel adventure will fall right into your lap or fly right over your head!
Come fly with me on an adventure of a lifetime. We'll experience first-hand what it's like aboard one of only 14 World War II B-17s still flying in the U.S. and explore a B-24 Liberator on the tarmac. We'll also get to know some of the brave men who flew missions for freedom in these historic war birds over 60 years ago.
WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR
The Collings Foundation was founded by Bob Collings and is now run by his son Rob and his wife Caroline. The Foundation has been conducting the Wings of Freedom Tour annually for the past 17 years, visiting over 150 locations nationwide. The tour is a wonderful opportunity for teachers to introduce their students to living history and for families and aviation enthusiasts to have an amazing day. I promise, you'll meet veterans with colorful stories that only they can tell, about their first-hand experiences.
Click here to view the 2010 schedule. If you're traveling or live near one of the many venues, it's truly worthwhile to carve a few hours from your busy schedule and be a part of this experience. General admission for unguided tarmac tours of the aircraft is $10. Flight experiences start at $325 and are tax deductible.
ADVENTURE OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS
They flew right over my head as they made a left-hand turn over Long Island Sound on their final approach to Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR). They were: a B-17 Flying Fortress and a B-24 Liberator. Wow! This was a sight to both see and hear. Each aircraft has four 1,000 HP plus engines. NASCAR fans, you'll love it! It sounds like the entire Daytona 500 field, flying overhead.
Watching them bank hard, it was obvious that something special was happening only a few miles away in Stratford, CT. Several clicks later revealed that The Wings of Freedom Tour was in town until the following day. This was too good an opportunity to pass up. I had to somehow arrange a ride on that B-17. My plan was to get up early and drive to the airport, business card in hand, and introduce myself.
Approaching the aircraft hangars in the morning was exciting. The planes are surreal when I first catch a glimpse of them. They're proud and larger than life in a world that's been flattened by modern jet travel. A volunteer greeted me at the security gate and graciously offered to introduce me. Waiting patiently for several minutes, it was obvious that this was an organized and well-equipped endeavor.
Caroline Collings came forward and introduced herself. She looked like she ought to be working for Ralph Lauren at 867 Madison Avenue. However, she is no lifestyle model. She is the real deal. She's an experienced pilot and flies WWII heavy bombers. Caroline is Captain rated on the B-25 Mitchell and a spokeswoman for the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPS), who ferried many of these planes to staging airfields for the European and Central Pacific Theatres.
After providing some background information, she said, "We're leaving for Oxford, CT today at 1pm. Would you like to take a ride on the B-17?" Grinning ear to ear, her offer was eagerly accepted.
Before the flight, we toured "Witchcraft", the olive drab B-24 Liberator with a top speed of 285 mph. She was armed with eleven .50-caliber machine guns and had a maximum bomb load of 8,000 lbs. With a crew of 10, fuel and ordinance, it topped the scales at 65,000 pounds and had a range of 1,850 miles.
The four bomb bay doors operated like garage doors and neatly rolled up along the outside of the fuselage. Four 1,100 hp Pratt & Whitney engines powered the plane. Consolidated Aircraft Company in Houston, Texas manufactured it. We bent down low to enter the bomb bay compartment so we could access the cockpit. At first glance, it's clear that the inside of this flying machine is still a technological and engineering wonder. Pioneering leaps in the development of hydraulic systems, variable pitch propellers, super-charging and turbo-charging are all evident in this 65-year-old plane.
Structurally, it's rock solid. Thousands of rivets connecting the frame to the vertical stringers hold everything together. The aluminum fuselage is thin and offers little protection from the penetrating cold or enemy fire. The ....