LIMA — Four vintage planes arrived Wednesday afternoon at the Allen County Airport as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour by the Collings Foundation.
The planes included a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, a B-25 Mitchell and North American P-51 Mustang.
The B-24 is the last one still flying in the entire world.
Rick Musser, of Lima, was in awe of the history of these aircraft.
“I love these old airplanes and I love the history of them, and I can’t begin to express the appreciation and the gratitude and the pride I have of what these guys have been put through and did for us,” said Musser.
Musser, a Vietnam veteran, appreciates the sacrifices the crews made in making the freedom we have today possible.
“If you can imagine, the B-17’s. There are stories about them putting up a thousand of these in the air for a raid over Germany. There’s 10 men in that crew and an acceptable loss was 10 percent. Can you imagine a hundred planes not coming home and a thousand men dying? And these young guys got in these planes, day after day after day, and did it. It just baffles my mind, it really does. I’m so in awe of what they did,” said Musser.
Eric Whyte, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, piloted the B-17 into the Allen County Airport but has flight experience on all three bombers.
“It’s such a unique opportunity to be able to fly these airplanes. There’s 10 B-17’s still flying, to be entrusted in what’s essentially a national treasure it’s a tremendous responsibility but it’s a great honor and it’s a heck of a lot of fun. It’s a chance for us to give back to the veterans and tell their story and tell the next generation what they went through, what it was like. It’s kind of bringing history alive and making it real and not just something out of a book,” said Whyte.
Whyte says when they do find a veteran that has experience in these planes, it’s pretty special.
“We always try and get as much of their story as we can and we don’t ask them about the war, we ask them about the airplane and we talk about where they served and what model of airplane that they flew and what was their position on the crew. It sort of opens the floodgates of memories for them because a lot of time their kids say, ‘Dad doesn’t like to talk about the war,’ but when you talk about the airplane, they tell their story and it adds to the ambiance,” said Whyte.
People can check out The Wings of Freedom Tour from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. Thursday and from 9 a.m. to noon on Friday.
The cost to explore the aircraft inside and out is $15 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
If you wanted to take a flight on the B-25, it’s $400 per person. For either the B-17 or B-24, the cost is $450 per person. If you would like to actually get some stick time in a P-51, it will set you back $2,200 for half an hour and $3,200 for a full hour.