Wings of Freedom

Today Hale and I treaded down to the Spirit of St. Louis Airport to see the Wings of Freedom 2007 Tour.  Three historical aircraft from the WWII era were at the airport for tours and flights.  The planes are operated by a group called the Collings Foundation which is dedicated to preserving the history of flight.  A B-25 Mitchell, B-24 Liberator, and a B-17 Flying Fortress are the three aircraft currently on tour.  The flights weren’t air show type fly-bys but rather real flights in which the common Joe can hop aboard for 30 minutes to experience flight.  Hale and I went for the tour given the price of the flights were somewhat prohibitive.  Well not prohibitive.  I just couldn’t justify spending $800 or so for both of us to have a joy ride.  However we did strike up a conversation with a man who had paid the freight to fly on the B-24.  He said it was worth every penny.
At any rate, it was a good morning.  We trooped down early enough to see the B-24 and B-17 on approach and we pulled up to the airport parking lot in time to see the B-17 taxing into it’s display position.  What a sight!  I have not seen a B-24 much less in flight and on approach.  I have seen B-17s at air shows and museums but witnessing it’s approach was a first as well.

Collings Foundation B-25 Tondelayo at Spirit of St. Louis Airport

Above, Hale stands in front of the B-25 “Tondelayo”. This isn’t the original aircraft but a restored Mitchell repainted with the 500th Bomb Squandron’s colors and of it’s most celebrated plane.  It’s hard to see from the picture, but a mechanic was doing some work on the opposite engine on the other side.  It was pretty fascinating watching him take parts off the engine right in front of us.

Collings Foundation B-24 Witchcraft at Spirit of St. Louis Airport

This B-24 is said to be the only Liberator fully flight restored in the world.  Can you believe that?  The only B-24 flying today.  The Liberator flew in both theaters of operation in WWII but I believe, or at least most books I have read refer to the plane doing most of its work in North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Europe.  The current paint scheme honors the 8th Air Force who flew out of England.

Collings Foundation B-17 at Spirit of St. Louis Airport

Everyone knows the Flying Fortress.  The US went through B-17s over Europe like Micheal Vick going through Pit Bulls at a Hurricane Katrina Pit Bull rescue center.  The US was losing so many B-17s because of their daylight bombing strategy that an incentive was placed in front of its crews.  “Fly 25 missions and go home,” basically was it.  The Memphis Belle was the first to do it.

Because of the B-17 and the B-24’s size, we were able to tour the aircraft – go inside.  For the Flying Fortress you entered under the cockpit and moved to the rear through the top turret, bomb bay, radio room, over the ball turret and into the waist before exiting the waist.  The Liberator was reverse entering in front of the tail gunner’s position into the waist and moving forward over the ball turrent, through the bomb bay, and exiting at the front of the bomb bay behind the cockpit.  I’ve posted pictures at Flickr (most are unedited).

Hale asked for some more movies on these planes so we’re hunting for old war movies online.  We hit Best Buy, Circuit City, and some other smaller retailers after the tours to no avail.

I think tonight we’ll crack open some beverages in honor of these massive air ships while burning up the grill.

Salut!

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