Vintage Warplanes Going Airborne Again

Paul Allen's collection of planes take to the skies during "fly days," when the aircraft get exercise needed to keep their engines in good shape.

The plane was shot down in Russia and sat on the tundra for 50 years until a British collector spotted it in a satellite photo. While other Tomahawks have been restored, Gordon said Allen's is among the oldest still flying.

Bill Fischer, executive director of the Experimental Aircraft Association's Warbirds of America, said Allen has one of the most extensive war plane collections on display at a single site. Some of the German models are particularly impressive, he said, because they're so rare.

"After World War II, a lot of those air frames were destroyed, just through the process of demilitarizing Germany," Fischer said in a phone interview from his office in Oshkosh, Wis.

Allen owns about 20 vintage planes that are in varying states of repair at restoration shops around the world. Eventually, Nank said, some of them may be added to Allen's Arlington collection if they can be restored to airworthiness.

Nank declined to disclose how much Allen has paid for his planes, but it's safe to say it's a lot more than it would have been if he'd simply restored them for static display.

Costs vary widely, depending on the age and condition of the plane, but the difference between restoring aircraft for flight vs. static display can be tens of thousands of dollars for small planes or hundreds of thousands for larger ones, said Kay Crites, spokeswoman for the nonprofit Commemorative Air Force in Midland, Tex.

More than 4,500 visitors have toured Allen's collection since it opened to the public in the spring of 2004. Allen is looking into allowing greater access to his collection by the end of next summer. To date, tours have been limited to Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is $20, with discounts for seniors and veterans.

Crites said a collection like Allen's reminds visitors "that freedom really isn't free. There was a price that was paid, and these planes played a very big part of that."


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