Tour features historical bombers and fighter aircraft

A perfectly restored collection of vintage World War II fighter planes and bombers will return to the Sonoma County Airport Jet Center on June 3-5 for the Wings of Freedom tour, an interactive and historical experience that aims to honor World War II veterans and provide a look back in time.

Planes that will be on display include a vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a consolidated B-24 Liberator, a North American B-25 Mitchell, a P-51 Mustang and, new to the group, a Curtiss P-40 Warhawk.

“Aside from the rarity of the aircraft, this is a real experience. What you’re seeing is straight out of 1944,” said Hunter Chaney, director of marketing for The Collings Foundation, the group that organizes the tour.

According to a Wings of Freedom tour press release, the B-17 is one of only nine in flying condition in the United States and the B-24J is the sole remaining example of its type flying in the world. The B-25 is best known for being used in the Doolittle raid, a 1942 air raid on Tokyo and Honshu, which was the first U.S. air operation to strike the Japanese islands.

The P-51 Mustang was awarded the prestigious Grand Champion award for restoration.    

The planes will land at the Sonoma County airport around noon on Monday, June 3 and will be on display until their departure on June 5.

“We’re hoping people get excited about the experience itself and want to learn more about World War II. Also what we hope is people better understand the circumstances that these young men were flying in,” Chaney said. “We’re hoping people remember World War II, it really wasn’t that long ago and there are things worth remembering and to pay tribute to the sacrifice of our World War II veterans.”

Hours of ground tours and display are: noon to 5 p.m. on Monday, June 3, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 4-5.

“To be able to see it, touch it, smell it and crawl through it is truly unforgettable,” Chaney said of the plane tours.

The event will also feature 30-minute flight experiences before and after the ground tour times.

The tour is in its 30th year and is put on by the Collings Foundation, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit educational foundation that works to organize “living history” events that allows people to learn history through participatory events.  

Chaney said in addition to crawling through the planes on display, participants are encouraged to visit and speak with their local World War II veterans since the opportunity for a one-on-one experience is starting to dwindle as veterans age.

The Wings of Freedom visits around 110 cities in 35 states annually.

Tickets 

Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12-years-old for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. Discounted rates are available for school groups.

Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person. B-25 flights are $400 per person. “Get some ‘stick time’ in the world’s greatest fighters,” —  P-40 flight training is $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour. P-51 flight training is $2,400 for a half hour and $3,400 for a full hour.

For reservations and information on flight experiences call 800-568-8924.

When and where: June 3-5 at the Sonoma County Airport, located at the Sonoma Jet Center, 6000 Flightline Drive.

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