By Terry Stephens
Paine Field (PAE) will once again host a Wings of Freedom tour of the Collings Foundation’s World War II bombers June 20-22, providing ground tours, pre-scheduled private flights and an opportunity to experience a memorable part of world history.
The rare historic aircraft arriving this year will include a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator and for the first time in the Pacific Northwest, a B-25 Mitchell. Ground tours of the planes will be available for all visitors, and private flights can be pre-arranged by contacting the Collings Foundation, in Stow, Mass.
This year, the airport will also host an evening social gathering June 21, for members of the Everett, Mukilteo, Marysville Tulalip and South Snohomish county chambers of commerce members, to provide them the opportunity to tour the aircraft.
More than 12,000 B-17s were built during World War II, but only eight are flying today. The B-24 was the most produced war plane in WWII, with more than 19,000 rolling off assembly lines, but the foundation’s Liberator is the last one still flying.
Nearly 10,000 B-25 Mitchells were built, having the distinction of being the only American military aircraft named for a person, Army Air Force Gen. Billy Mitchell. It also became the only twin-engine bomber to ever fly from an aircraft carrier, when 16 of the planes took off from the USS Hornet for a daring raid on Japan.
Over more than 15 years, the Collings bombers have surpassed more than 1,800 stops on their circuits, which include about 120 cities each year. On-board tours and flights have been provided for nearly four million people, with tour and flight fees being used to keep the aircraft in top flying condition.
On their Pacific Northwest tour, the planes will visit Oregon at Klamath Falls International Airport (LMT), June 4-6; McMinnville Municipal Airport (MMV) at Evergreen Aviation Museum, June 6-8; Aurora State Airport (UOA), Aurora Aviation, June 8-11; and Astoria Regional Airport (AST), June 11-13.
In Washington, the bombers will make stops at Bremerton National Airport (PWT), June 13-15; Olympia Airport (OLM), Olympic Flight Museum, June 15-17; William R. Fairchild International Airport (CLM), Port Angeles, June 18-20; Paine Field (PAE), Everett, June 20-22; Boeing Field (BFI), Seattle Museum of Flight, June 22-25; and Spokane International Airport (GEG), June 25-26.
In Montana, the bombers will visit Missoula International Airport (MSO), Museum of Mountain Flying, June 27-28, before flying on to Wyoming and other states on their way back east.
The Collings Foundation is a nonprofit educational organization, founded in 1979. It provides “living history” events throughout the United States each year, to teach Americans about their heritage. Since 1989, the foundation has focused on bringing historic military aircraft to airports in the lower 48 states and Alaska.
All of the aircraft restored by the foundation have been returned to near original condition, to provide authentic educational experiences on their tours, as well as to honor the veterans who served on them in the global fight to preserve freedom.
For more information, visit [http://www.collingsfoundation.org] or [http://www.painefield.com].