Founded in 1979 the Collings Foundation undertakes to organize and support what they describe as ‘living history’ events to encourage Americans to discover more about their heritage through the various exhibitions and events arranged by this non-profit organization. Events organized by the foundation include airshows, historical reunions, barnstorming, joint museum displays, Vietnam Memorial Flights and the ever-popular Wings of Freedom Tour which travels to numerous destinations in the United States, bringing ‘living history’ to the public.
The Wings of Freedom Tour started in 1989 with the goal of honoring the sacrifices made by war veterans on behalf of American citizens, as well as educating the public, with the emphasis on young people, about American national history and aviation heritage. In its 22 years of operation, the Wings of Freedom Tour has made more than 2,600 visits to airports throughout the US, including Alaska. With an estimated 3.5 to 4 million people viewing the warbirds each year, the Wings of Freedom Tour is certainly keeping American aviation history alive.
Visitors to any of the Wings of Freedom Tour events have the opportunity to enjoy a Flight Experience on the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-25 Mitchell, or the B-24 Liberator, spending 30 minutes aboard one of these classic airplanes from start-up to shut-down. Flight Experience bookings should be made in advance and participants should arrive at the venue one hour prior to the scheduled flight to allow time to get acquainted with the crew and the aircraft. Following a briefing on aircraft safety, passengers will be seat-belted for takeoff and once airborne will have the opportunity to walk about the aircraft and view its various features, with the crew on hand to answer questions. Passengers must be seated for landing and must remain so until the engines have been shut down.
Apart from the Wings of Freedom Tour, the Collings Foundation has a number of aircraft that can be booked as part of other airshows or events. These include a Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk, Grumman TBM Avenger, North American B-25 Mitchell, Cessna UC-78 Bobcat, Boeing PT-17 Kaydet, McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and Consolidated B-24 Liberator.
Located in Stow, MA, the Collings Foundation coordinates the Wings of Freedom Tour and the Vietnam Memorial flights and oversees the onsite aviation museum and vintage automobile and racecar collection which can be viewed by appointment. Up to 25 events are hosted at the foundation each year, many of which are fund-raising events for non-profit organizations. The foundation is actively involved in restoration projects and relies heavily upon volunteer participation and donations. So check the Wings of Freedom Tour schedule on the Collings Foundation website and be sure to support the event if it lands near you.