WWII aircraft to occupy Brunswick skies

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BRUNSWICK — World War II fighter planes will take flight this month, but this time it will be over Brunswick, not Europe.

The Brunswick Executive Airport will host five rare fighter planes Sept. 21-23 as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, a national event organized by the Collings Foundation. Visitors will have the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior of the planes for $12 ($6 for children). 

For a steeper price – ranging from $400 to $3,200 – aviation enthusiasts can take a ride on and even fly one of the still-functional planes.

This is the 27th year of the Wings of Freedom Tour, which has visited about 110 U.S. cities in more than 35 states.

The Collings Foundation was established in 1979 with the mission of bringing history to life through the preservation and exhibition of historical artifacts. Because of the immersive nature of the exhibit, Collings Foundation spokesman Hunter Chaney said antique “warbirds” are one of the most effective means of introducing people to WWII history.

“It’s really all-encompassing,” Chaney said of visiting and flying the planes. In looks, feel, and smell, “you’re in a completely foreign environment” that makes for a transportable experience – both literally and figuratively.

The tour will display and offer rides on a B-17 Flying Fortress, what Chaney called the most iconic and well-known heavy bombers from the war. Of the 12,000 that were made, there are only eight in flying condition. The plane bound for Brunswick spent years in civilian use, putting out forest fires before the Collings Foundation purchased and restored it 30 years ago.

The tour also includes a B-24 Liberator, the sole remaining aircraft of its kind still able to take flight. According to Chaney, more than 14,000 Liberators were manufactured between 1942 and 1945 – about one every hour for four years, he emphasized – and, as such, the model represents the “industrial might” of the U.S. military that contributed to the success of the Allied forces.

Chaney said the presence of military veterans is often the most moving part of the tour.

“World War II veterans will come out and hang around the aircraft,” he said, adding that the stories they share can be better vehicles into history than the planes themselves.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

The B-24 Liberator, foreground, and a B-17 Flying Fortress are two of the five World War II fighter planes that will be on display at Brunswick Executive Airport as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour Sept. 21-23.

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Reporter on the Brunswick/Harpswell beat. Proud Bowdoin grad that you can find reporting on municipal, school, and community news, or inside the many coffee and sandwich shops around the Midcoast. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100.