Aug. 27--Reading about history is one thing. "Experiencing" it is quite another.
That is the reasoning at the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit group that will bring its Wings of Freedom Tour of vintage World War II airplanes to Stratford's Sikorsky Memorial Airport on Tuesday through Friday, Sept 2-5.
The tour, celebrating its 25th anniversary, visits about 110 cities each year in about 35 states, "touching the lives of 3.5 million people annually," said Hunter Chaney, foundation spokesman.
On view will be a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Nine O Nine" heavy bomber, Consolidated B-24J Liberator and North American P-51C Mustang fighter.
The goal of the foundation is "to organize and support living history through direct participation," Chaney said.
For a small fee, visitors will have the "opportunity to climb aboard these treasures of aviation history," Chaney said. "To be inside these airplanes, to actually experience something from WWII history is something that visitors will never forget," he said.
Touring the interiors of these flying ships "is like entering a time machine," he said.
The airplanes are fully restored. "For every hour of flying, each airplane undergoes about 10 hours of maintenance," Chaney said, making the planes extremely safe. All staff and pilots are volunteers.
Visitors who are looking to "experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" of a 30-minute flight aboard the B-17 or B-24 may do so for $450 per person (prior to/or after exhibit times). Flights aboard the P-51 are $2,200 for 30 minutes, $3,200 for an hour.
Chaney said "the B-17 is one of only eight in flying condition in the United States; the B-24J and Full Dual Control P-51C Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world."
According to the foundation, the Wings of Freedom Tour "is 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 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 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 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."
Chaney said the tours continue to be quite popular across the United States: "We work very hard to make history lessons personal, and that never gets old."
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Sikorsky Memorial Airport, off Lordship Boulevard, in Stratford. Tuesday, Sept. 2-Friday, Sept. 5. Hours of ground tours, display are: Tuesday, Sept. 2, noon-5 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday, Sept. 3-4, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 5, 9 a.m.-noon. $12, $6 ages under 12. World War II vets free. 1-800-568-8924, www.collingsfoundation.org.
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