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.
Operating as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving aviation history, the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum (DVHAA) is located in Horsham, PA. Volunteers work all year round to support aircraft restoration, run the museum, gift shop and library, and plan events and fund-raising projects, as well as to keep membership services and administration up-to-date.
In 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, a group of naval officers, prompted by Lieutenant Commander David Ascher, retrieved some axis and allied aircraft from a scrap yard and went to work on reassembling and restoring these abandoned war-birds. The display of restored aircraft, alongside US Route 611 in Horsham, Pennsylvania, was referred to as the Ascher Collection and was the beginning of what is now the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum, maintained by the Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association (DVHAA).
The DVHAA restoration team restores and performs maintenance on the organization’s historic aircraft, as well as those on loan from the US Air Force and US Navy. The most recent restorations by the team were to a Sikorsky UH-34D Seabat and Piasecki HUP-2 Retriever, with current restoration projects including a Republic F-84F Thunderjet and Chance Vought F8U-1 Crusader. As one of only five remaining aircraft of its kind in the world, the Chance-Bought F7U Cutlass is one of the DVHAA restoration team’s future projects.
Exhibits at the Harold F. Pitcairn Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum include fourteen aircraft and almost forty display cases, categorized as: World War One; the Pitcairn Era; World War II; the Tuskegee Airmen; the Cold War; Southeast Asia; Korea; Women in Aviation; Contemporary Aviation and Space Exploration. Visitors to the museum can view more than two hundred hand-crafted scale models, along with an increasing collection of memorabilia related to aviation. Some of the highlights of the museum are a large collection of aviation patches, videos and photographs; full-sized mannequin dressed in vintage aviation flight-gear; flight simulators; F-8 Crusader instrument panel; Aim 4 Falcon air to air missile; Aim 9 Sidewinder air to air missile; air to ground rocket and shells; and a J:65 Jet Engine.
Entrance to the Wings of Freedom Aviation Museum is free, with donations gladly accepted. Hours are Wednesday to Friday 10h30-15h00, and Saturday and Sunday 10h00-16h00. School and group tours should be arranged in advance. Through the efforts of dedicated aviation enthusiasts, the Wings of Freedom Museum provides visitors with a fascinating look at aviation history.