From top to bottom, the P-51 Mustang “Betty Jane, the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” and the B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” will fly into the Southwest Regional Airport on Monday as part of the Collings Foundation three-day Wings of Freedom Tour. The WWII vintage aircraft will be on public display from Monday through Wednesday. (Special Photo)
ALBANY — If any aviation enthusiasts or World War II history buffs missed getting up close and personal with the “Movie Memphis Belle” B-17 bomber in Thomasville this past weekend, you’ll get a second chance next week at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport.
On Monday, a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang will fly into town and will remain on display at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport until Wednesday.
Participating in the Collings Foundation’s wings of Freedom Tour are the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” Heavy Bomber, Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” Heavy Bomber and P-51 Mustang “Betty Jane” fighter. All will will be available for public tours.
Visitors are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out — $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft. WWII veterans can tour through the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates are available for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft.
Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person. Get some “stick time” in the world’s greatest fighter. P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.
Hours of ground tours and display are: noon through 4:30 p.m. on Monday; 9 a.m. through 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, and 9 a.m through noon on Wednesday. The 30-minute flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the ground tour times above.
“We are expecting large crowds as word gets out,” Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Deputy Director Ken Johnson said. “We are advising people to arrive early as possible and park on the grass near the hangers and not in the airport or UPS parking lots. Walk to the right and they will be escorted to the aircraft in groups by airport security.
“We are expecting Monday to be slow as it is a half-day display, but we are expecting our largest crowds on Tuesday since it is a full day.”
Collings Foundation spokesperson Hunter Chancey said the tour is a way to honor veterans and provide the public with an insight into history.
“The Wings of Freedom Tour travels the nation 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,” Chancey said. “The B-17 and B-24 were the backbone of the American (Army Air Force) effort during the war in Europe from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish their missions.”
Chancey added that the P-51, which provided bomber escorts later in the war, saved the lives of many American Airmen.
“The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers’ “Little Friend” — saving countless crews from attacking axis fighters, he said.
According to the Collings Foundation, The B-17 is one of only a handful remaining in flying condition in the United States, and the B-24J and two-seater full dual control P-51C Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the World.
The foundation is a 501c3 non-profit educational foundation devoted to organizing “living history” events that allows people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation. The Nationwide Wings of Freedom Tour is in its 24th year and visits an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually. Since its start, tens of millions of people have seen the B-17, B-24 & P-51 display at locations everywhere.
For more information on the tour, or to reserves fight times, contact the Collings Foundationat 800-568-8924.