Nonprofit flies WWII planes into Stuart
By Jessica Tuggle
STUART -- The roar of a restored fighter plane and two bomber planes used in World War II history will soon be heard at Witham Field in Stuart on for a special "living history" aviation event.
Stuart will be one of 110 cities in the Wings of Freedom tour produced by the nonprofit Collings Foundation and visitors to the municipal 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 Vero Beach on Feb. 13 and fly out on Feb. 15, 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.
"These are arguably the greatest aircraft in history," Mr. Chaney said.
The planes will touchdown for a brief respite from Feb. 11 through Feb. 13 at Galaxy Aviation, one of the fixed base operators at Witham Field.
David Smith, general manager of Galaxy Aviation, said one of the most rewarding experiences of hosting the tour is seeing the multi-generational appreciation for the planes.
"There's a lot of vets in the area that come out and reminisce about the planes and the children really love to be up close and personal," Mr. Smith said.
The young people can learn stories, true histories, from the veterans about situations and missions, making the experience even more vivid and colorful.
"It's a fun time for all and we're very happy to do it," Mr. Smith said.
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 noon to 4 p.m. on Feb. 11; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Feb. 12; and 9 a.m. to noon on Feb. 13. The planes are expected to take off to their next city location, Vero Beach, after 12 p.m.
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.