By Jessica Tuggle
MELBOURNE -- Older Brevard County residents may do a double take if they happen to glimpse the skies above Melbourne International Airport Feb. 15, as three World War II era aircraft will fly into the airport for a special event.
Melbourne will be one of 110 cities in the Wings of Freedom tour, produced by the nonprofit Collings Foundation, and visitors to the airport can see, experience, and even fly in, a restored plane that carried out wartime missions more than half a century ago.
The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress "Nine O Nine" WWII heavy bomber, the consolidated B-24 Liberator "Witchcraft" WWII heavy bomber, and the P-51C Mustang fighter will fly into Melbourne on Feb. 15 and be on display through Feb. 17, and members of the public are invited to come out and be educated about the rare planes and their history, said Hunter Chaney, director of marketing for the Collings Foundation.
The planes will be on display at one of the airports fixed-vase operators, Atlantic Jet Center, located at 1401 General Aviation Drive in Melbourne.
"The Wings of Freedom tour provides a wonderful opportunity for Space Coast residents to see history up close in the form of these beautiful vintage aircraft," said Lori Booker, airport spokeswoman, in an email. "The airport is pleased to host the tour as it has in years past and appreciates the work of longtime airport tenant Atlantic Jet Center for helping put this together."
Tickets to the event are $12 for adults and $6 for children younger than 12. WWII veterans can tour the aircraft at no cost, Mr. Chaney said.
Discounted rates are available for school groups.
Tour times are available from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 15; 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 16; and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 17.
The B-17 plane is one of only eight planes of its kind still flying in the U.S., and the B-24 and the P-51C Mustang, a full dual-control model, are the only remaining examples of their type flying in the world, a press release said.
After the war, many of the planes were scrapped for their raw aluminum, so there aren't many examples left accessible to people to see, Mr. Chaney said.
The Collings Foundation's mission is organizing living history events in order for people to learn about history and heritage in a more hands-on and active approach, ultimately heightening the experience and potentially creating a love and interest in learning more, Mr. Chaney said.
"It's one of the finest examples of edu-tainment out there," he said.
Tickets to fly in the aircraft and even to fly one of them are also available.
Flights on either the B-17 or the B024 are $425 per person for approximately a half-hour experience. The opportunity to fly the P-51 is available for $2,200 for a half-hour, or $3,200 for a full hour. Flights take place before and after tours.
For flight reservations, call (800) 568-8924. For more information about Wings of Freedom or the Collings Foundation, visit www.collingsfoundation.org.