WWII history lands in Delaware

    It’s no surprise when a history enthusiast can list off the thousands of details documented in American history books about World War II.

    It’s no surprise when a history enthusiast can list off the thousands of details documented in American history books about World War II.

    But not many can say they toured the cockpit of a B-17 Flying Fortress that inspired generations or took a flight on a B-24 Liberator that once fought for American freedom in the skies of Europe and the Pacific more than sixty years ago.

    A Massachusetts based non-profit educational foundation is making sure that aviation dream becomes a reality for millions of Americans. For 20 years, the Collings Foundation has brought a rare living history display to life in more than 110 cities throughout 35 states annually.

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    This afternoon, the Wings of Freedom tour made a stop in Delaware for the third consecutive year. Dozens of people came out to get a glimpse of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator and North American P-51 Mustang, which are currently on display at the New Castle County Airport until noon on Wednesday.
    The B-17 and B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during the war from 1942 to 1945. Jim Harley is the foundation’s volunteer pilot for the world’s last flying B-24 Liberator. “The B-17 got all the glory” Harley says, “But the B-24 did all the work.”

    The two bombers were also well known for their ability to sustain damage while accomplishing heavy bombing missions. World War II veteran Bill Fili spoke first hand today about the plane’s resistance to damage.

    Fili was working on his 34th mission over Romania as flight engineer aboard B-24 “Destiny Deb” when his plane was tragically shot down during the Ploesti air battle. “4,000 of us got shot down,” Fili says with tears in his eyes, “Only 1200 came back.”

    After surviving this battle by parachute, Fili felt he owed his life to the powerful B-24 aircraft. “This machine was the greatest fighting machine that was ever built,” he says “You could see it was the iron horse or the aluminum horse”

    The third plane on display, the P-51 Mustang, was built in the early 1940’s with the ability to fly long distances at a fast pace. It became one of the world’s most successful and recognizable aircraft through the years. It was used as an escort fighter that stayed with the bombers deep into enemy territory and back to base on every mission. The P-51 soon came to be known as the allied crew’s “Little Friend.”

    Having these planes available for educational purposes has a huge significance for Delaware residents, specifically for war veterans like Bill Fili. The exhibit serves greater value to him than the two ounces of whiskey and two donuts he was given as a welcome home present from his last war mission. “It means the world to me,” Fili says.

    The planes are available for ground tours for the next two days. Visitors can also schedule a 30-minute or one-hour flight where they will be given the unique opportunity to fly the aircraft.
    Hours of display and ground tours are:

    8/17/2009 2:00PM -5:00PM
    8/18/2009 9:00AM -5:00PM
    8/19/2009 9:00AM-12:00PM
    The 30-minute flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the ground tour times. If you would like to schedule a 30-minute flight reservation, call (978) 562-9182.
    Walk through tours $12 adults, $6 children
    30-minute flight aboard B-17 or B-24 $425/person
    30-minute flight aboard P-51 $2,200
    60-minute flight aboard P-51 $3,200
    WWII veterans can tour the aircraft at no cost
    For more information about the Wings of Freedom tour, log onto www.collingsfoundation.org

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