'An interactive flying memorial'; Wings of Freedom Tour captures WWII era at Worcester airport.

AuthorOwen, Paula J.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

WORCESTER -- The world's most long-lived and extensive historic aircraft tour -- the Collings Foundation's Wings of Freedom Tour -- made its 2,918th stop this weekend, touching down at Worcester Regional Airport.

"The tour here in Worcester is special for us because of its location and proximity to the foundation,'' said Hunter B. Chaney, marketing director for the Collings Foundation, which owns the collection of restored vintage WWII war planes, including a Boeing B-17, B-24 Liberator and P-51 Mustang. "Millions know about the tour, but few know we're based in Massachusetts.''

The planes arrived Friday and will be on display from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Walk-through tours of the B-17 and B-24 are $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 (includes access to all aircraft). WWII veterans will receive guided tours at no charge.

Flights before and after the ground tours are available. They range in cost from $450 to $3,200. Reservations are required.

The Collings Foundation has conducted the tour for the last 25 years, making around 110 stops across the country each year.

"The challenge we face now is, how do we remember WWII history and engage younger generations to understand that part of history and to want to know even more,'' Mr. Chaney said. "That is why aircraft tours like this are so important. This is an interactive flying memorial to WWII vets.''

In most cases, similar planes are in museums, Mr. Chaney said.

"Here, people are interacting with the displays,'' he said. "You can't get that in a museum setting. What they are seeing is straight out of 1944.

"It is startling to some people that the planes are not particularly comfortable. It is the equivalent to flying to Mars with a mask and snorkel on. Most missions, there was no air to breathe, the average temperature was 30 to 60 below zero and people were shooting at them with every mission. And there were all 18-years-old flying in them. Just flying alone was an extreme risk to one's life, and they were doing it mission after mission. It was very dangerous. Over 88,000 young men lost their lives flying in these aircrafts and that was just Americans. It is a stark reminder of what they were doing 80 years ago.''

As WWII veterans continue to age and fewer and fewer are still around, Mr. Chaney said Collings and other organizations are trying to make sure people do not forget the worst conflict in history.

"We need to remember the terrible things that...

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