Warbirds to appear at SM Public Airport

The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour will bring a B-17 Flying Fortress, a P-51 Mustang, and a B-24 Liberator to the Santa Maria Public Airport from Monday through Wednesday.

American warbirds, crucial to winning World War II, are coming to the Central Coast next week.  The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour will bring a B-17 Flying Fortress, a P-51 Mustang, and a B-24 Liberator to the Santa Maria Public Airport from Monday until Wednesday.

Visitors are welcome to tour the inside of the vintage aircraft and 30-minute flights also are available, organizers said.  Viewing the exterior of planes is free. Interior tours of the B-17 or B-24 will cost $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 years old.  Flights aboard the B-17 or B-24 cost $425 per person per flight while P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.  Reservations can be made through the Collings Foundation at (800) 568-8924. Donations are tax-deductible.  

The planes are scheduled to arrive Monday afternoon at the airport and will be parked on the ramp behind the Radisson Hotel, 3455 Skyway Drive, until Wednesday.

Hours for ground tours and display are from 2 to 5:30 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Flights are typically scheduled before and after ground tour times.

The B-17 is restored and painted as the 8th Air Force, 91st Bomb Group’s “Nine-O-Nine” which flew a record 140 missions over enemy territory during World War II without an abort of lost crewman.  It’s one of only nine of its type flying today in the America, organizers said.

The B-24J has been restored and repainted as the 8th Air Force, 467th Bomb Group’s “Witchcraft” that flew 130 missions with no crewman injured or lost.

The dual control P-51C Mustang, named “Betty Jane,” honors Col. Charles M. McCorkle, commander of the 31st fighter group based in North Africa and Italy. He recorded 11 confirmed enemy kills in the air — 6 in a Mustang named “Betty Jane.”

The versions of the B-24 and P-51 are the only flying examples of their types in the world, according to organizers.

Santa Maria is part of a 110-city nationwide “living history” tour to promote education and awareness of World War II air power, The Collings Foundation said.

The local visit is hosted by the Santa Maria Museum of Flight.  Wings of Freedom has come to the airport five of the past seven years and typically has a good turnout, said Mike Geddry Sr., Museum of Flight president.

A barbecue from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday is being planned to welcome the flight crews, he said.  For reservations, call the museum at 922-8758. Prices have yet to be set.

For more information on the Massachusetts-based organization and its planes go to www.cfdn.org

Staff Report posted in Local on Saturday, May 15, 2010

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