CARLSBAD — A taste of history is flying through San Diego County.
And next week, the Wings of Freedom Tour will cut through the air above Carlsbad and North County. The tour began this week at Gillespie Field Airport in El Cajon before moving to the Ramona Airport on Wednesday running through today.
The final destination, however, begins April 28 at the McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.
The Wings of Freedom Tour features the World War II vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” heavy bomber, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” heavy bomber and P-51 Mustang fighter.
The B-17 is one of only eight in flying condition in the United States, while the B-24 and P-51 Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world.
The tour is organized by the Collings Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation, devoted to “living history” events allowing people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation.
In its 27th year, tour visits average 110 cities in over 35 states annually. Since its start, tens of millions of people have seen the B-17, B-24 and P-51 on display at locations everywhere.
The tour travels the nation as a flying tribute to the flight crews who flew them, the ground crews who maintained them, the workers who built them, the soldiers, sailors and airmen they helped protect; and the citizens and families that share the freedom that they helped preserve.
The B-17, B-25 and B-24 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 their missions. 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 to bombers as “Little Friend” — saving countless crews from attacking Axis 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.
The rarity of the aircraft and their importance to telling the story of WWII is why the Collings Foundation continues to fly and display the aircraft nationwide. At each location, the foundation encourages local veterans and their families to visit and share their experiences and stories with the public. For aviation enthusiasts, the tour provides opportunity for the museum to come to visitors.
Guests are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out — $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. Discounted rates for school groups are available.
Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person. P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour. B-25 flights are $400 per person.
For reservations and information on flight experiences call (800) 568-8924. For more information, visit collingsfoundation.org.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.