'Wings Of Freedom' Tour Touches Down October 18
On Friday, October 18th, the Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” WWII Heavy Bomber, a P-51 Mustang Fighter, and the vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress ”Nine O Nine" will arrive at the Greenville Downtown Airport (KGMU). These planes, which are part of the “Wings of Freedom Tour”, will be on display at the airport until Sunday, October 20th. "These historic planes are quite rare and we are lucky that they have chosen to come to Greenville,” stated Tim Bishop, Director of Museum Development for the Upcountry History Museum. "During WWII, Greenville Army Airbase (now SCTAC) was a training center for B-24 and B-25 aircraft and it will be an exciting opportunity to see a B-24 flying over Greenville again.”
The B-17 and B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish the mission. Despite the risks of anti-aircraft fire, attacking enemy fighters and the harrowing environment of sub-zero temperatures, many B-17s and B-24s safely brought their crews home. After the war, many aircraft were scrapped for their raw aluminum to help rebuild a nation in post-war prosperity. Therefore, very few were spared. The rarity of the B-17 and B-24 and their importance to telling the story of WWII is why the Collings Foundation continues to fly and display the aircraft nationwide. For aviation enthusiasts, the tour brings the museum to the visitor and not the other way around!
“We were fortunate that they had an unexpected schedule opening and offered it to us. We are trying to get the word out, far and wide, as quickly as possible. In the past, when people have heard of these type visits after the fact, they were really sad that they missed seeing them in person,” said Joe Frasher, GMU's Airport Director.
"Over the course of three days, about 2,100 people came out to see the planes the last time we were in Greenville. We really feel it's a great stop so we have it on a list of cities to possibly visit when coming through that area. We had a cancelation on the East Coast, we wanted to visit Greenville again and the airport was able to host us on short notice," according to Ken Miles, Director of Operations for the Collings Foundation. "It has all worked out great and we are looking forward to flying into, and over, the Upstate of S.C. again very soon," Miles added.
The “Wings of Freedom Tour” travels the nation as 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.
“This visit is especially important because our WWII vets are getting well into their 90s, so time is of the essence if we want them to be able to see these planes that were so important to their service,” stated Paul Howell, Director of Honor Flight Upstate South Carolina. “Our mission is to honor and support these heroes by offering a program that flies our World War II veterans to Washington, DC to see the memorial built in their honor, and to experience recognition for their service that literally saved the world. Now we have the opportunity to bring a bit of their history to our community AND them. I know our local veterans and the whole community will love seeing these historic flying machines so close to home,” Howell said.
Access to all three aircraft that includes walk through tours are just $12 for adults, and $6 for children 12 and under. WWII Veterans get into the ground tours at no charge. No reservations are needed and the walk through tour times are:
- Friday, 10/18/2013 2 pm - 4:30 pm
- Saturday, 10/19/2013 9 am - 4:30 pm
- Sunday, 10/20/2013 9 am - 4:30 pm
Flight Experiences take place before and after walk through tours. Reservations are required.
(Images provided by the Collings Foundation)