- Associated Press - Monday, March 9, 2015

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - For three days beginning Monday, a portion of the Vicksburg-Tallulah Regional Airport will resemble a World War II aerodrome when three vintage combat aircraft go on display as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, a nationwide tour of historic World War II aircraft presented by the Collings Foundation and sponsored by the Southern Heritage Air Foundation.

The Vicksburg Post reports (https://bit.ly/1A5GZuz) Collings Foundation spokesman Hunter Chaney said two restored World War II-era bombers, a B-17G and B-24J, and a P-51C Mustang fighter will be parked at the Southern Heritage Air Foundation Museum through Wednesday.

The planes will be available to the public Monday from noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

Chaney says the tour travels to a new location every three days. He said the tour visits more than 100 cities each year, and it is seen by more than 3 million people.

Southern Heritage Foundation president Patty Mekus said people could visit the museum and see the planes at no charge by entering through the airport’s main terminal and crossing the tarmac to the museum. She said the museum’s planes and a Chance Vaught F4U Corsair fighter, which was used by the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War, will also be on display while the Collings planes are at the museum.



She said people would be able to tour the bombers’ interiors for an admission of $12 for adults and $6 for students. They can also book flights in the bombers and the P-51. The charge for the bombers is $450 each for 30 minutes and $2,200 for a 30-minute flight in the P-51C. Two museum planes will offer rides, the AT-6 trainer for $350, and Waco Classic biplane for $150.

“Their P-51 is a dual stick, so you can get a little stick time (flying the plane),” Mekus said.

The planes will also serve as a backdrop for the return of the museum’s Tuesday noon hangar luncheons, she said, adding Monsanto will present a $2,500 check to the foundation during the lunch.

Established in 1979, the Collings Foundation is an educational nonprofit organization dedicated to organizing and supporting living history events. It has 27 aircraft kept at several locations in the U.S., and the collection ranges from a 1909 Bleroit monoplane to a Vietnam-era F-4 Phantom jet. Its World War II collection also includes a German Messerschmitt ME 262 jet fighter, the first operational jet fighter to see combat during the war.

“The tour is the longest functioning historic aircraft tour like this in the world,” he said. “The hope that we have with the tour is not only that people will have the chance to explore through these very rare planes, but to be able to take away a better understanding of what it must have been like, and to intrigue people enough to want to learn more about this history.

“Because of our expansive tour, this allows us to get into communities that might not otherwise have a chance to see something like this.”

The foundation’s goal, he said, is to organize and support living history events like the Wings of Freedom tour to engage people in history.

“We want to give folks not only motivation to want to learn more, but an experience in history that one never forgets,” said. “That’s exactly what this tour is - it’s this interaction with World War II history.”

When people fly in the aircraft, he said, they are truly getting an interactive experience.

“The bombers carry a load of dummy bombs on board. That’s the thing that’s really amazing,” he said. “When you’re crawling through these planes, what you’re seeing is straight out of 1944. You have all the radio and navigation equipment, the dummy bombs hanging in the racks, the gunnery positions, all of this is basically what you would have seen during 1944.”

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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