To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour will make its way across the South this month and the next.
Recreating the “barnstormer” idea used in the golden age of aviation, the foundation’s B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator will eventually travel to more than 120 cities across the nation this year. The B-24 Liberator is being repainted to represent one of the most famous B-24’s ever flown: the Ford Motors-produced “Witchcraft,” flown by the 467th Bomb Group in the 8th Air Force out of Rackheath, England in 1944. The newly-painted B-24 will make its first public appearance at the Tallahassee Regional Airport March 20.
The history of “Witchcraft” is a story that legends are made from, according to foundation officials. The original “Witchcraft” was produced as a B-24H built by Ford at the famous Willow Run, Mich., plant in 1944. It flew its first combat mission April 10, 1944. Over the next year, it flew 130 combat missions with various crews. “Witchcraft” was never once turned back while on a mission, and never had any crewmen injured or killed. Her last mission was flown on April 25th, 1945, which also was the last mission flown by the 467th Bomb Group.
Transforming the Collings Foundation’s B-24 into “Witchcraft” was no small task. The 110-foot wingspan of the B-24 Liberator made it difficult to find appropriate facilities to repaint the aircraft, and the large amount of surface area made it a long and expensive process as well, foundation officials said. TIMCO Aviation Services of Lake City, Florida, was in charge of the painting, while Hentzen Coatings, Inc. of Milwaukee, Wis., donated the accurate military-specification paint. After the basic repaint was completed, the B-24 was detailed with nose art and markings by American Aero Services of New Smyrna Beach, Florida.
After its debut in Tallahassee, the B-24 will join the rest of the foundation’s tour. During the tour, visitors will be able to explore the two planes inside and out. Walkthrough tours are available for a donation of $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12.
Visitors also have the opportunity to fly aboard each aircraft. Flights cost $400 per person and the cost is tax-deductible, as all donations go toward the upkeep and maintenance of the B-17 and B-24.
For reservations, call 800-568-8924.
– March 18-20: Dunnellon/Marion County Airport (X35), General Aviation Ramp
– March 21-23: Tallahassee Regional Airport (KTLH), Flightline Aviation
– March 23-25: Souther Field Airport (KACJ), Americus Ga., South Georgia Tech. College Ramp
– March 25-28: Shelby County Airport (KEET), Alabaster, Ala., General Aviation Ramp
– March 28-30: Memorial Field Airport (KHOT), Hot Springs, Ark., City of Hot Springs Ramp
– March 30-April 1: Ada Municipal Airport (KADH), Ada, Okla., General Aviation Ramp
– April 1-4: Ellington Field Airport (KEFD), Houston, Texas, Southwest Services
– April 4-6: Dallas Love Field Airport (KDAL), Frontiers of Flight Museum.