World War II planes, vets visiting Blaine airport

A rare opportunity to view World War II planes and visit with veterans from the era will be available at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport next week.

A P-51C fighter plane and Consolidated B-24J Liberator nicknamed “Witchcraft” are two of the three World War II era military aircraft that will be on display the afternoon of Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21 at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. The public can purchase a flight on these aircraft, which are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world. File photo by Bill Jones

A P-51C fighter plane and Consolidated B-24J Liberator nicknamed “Witchcraft” are two of the three World War II era military aircraft that will be on display the afternoon of Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21 at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. The public can purchase a flight on these aircraft, which are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world. File photo by Bill Jones

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” heavy bomber, the Consolidated B-24J Liberator “Witchcraft” heavy bomber and a P-51C Mustang fighter plane will be landing at the airport around 2 p.m. Thursday, July 18 and will be on display at the Golden Wings Museum until 5 p.m. July 21. The museum is located at 8891 Airport Road at the south end of the field.

Adults can climb into these planes and explore them for $12. The fee for children under the age of 12 is $6. World War II veterans can tour the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates are available for school groups.

Visitors can even fly in these historically significant aircraft. For a 30-minute flight, they can fly in either the B-17 or B-24J heavy bomber for $425 per person. A flight in the P-51 fighter plane is $2,200 for a half hour or $3,200 for a full hour.

For reservations and more information on flights, call 800-568-8924.

The ground tour times are 2-5 p.m. Thursday, July 18 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, July 19-21.

The flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the ground tour times.

The three World War II era military planes are owned by The Collins Foundation, which is a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts. According to the foundation, the “Nine O Nine” is one of only eight B-17 heavy bombers in flying condition in the United States.

The B-24J “Witchcraft” heavy bomber and the P-51C fighter plane are the sole remaining examples of their type flying in the world.

These heavy bombers were the backbone of the American military effort during the war and famous for their ability to sustain heavy damage and still accomplish the mission.

The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers’ “little friend” because its pilot’s mission was to protect bombers from enemy fighter planes.

Many military aircraft were scrapped after the war so the aluminum could be salvaged for other needs.

This is the 24th year that the foundation has organized the Wings of Freedom Tour to give people across the country a chance to see and touch a piece of history and talk with those who were a part of it. Its planes visit an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually.

With World War II veterans in or approaching their 90s, being able to visit with one of them is becoming a rare opportunity. The Eighth Air Force Historical Society of Minnesota is organizing a group of World War II veterans to come to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport during the event.

Craig Schiller, facility manager at the Golden Wings Museum, said there will also be a few other World War II veterans not affiliated with the historical society who will be there to talk to people about their experiences.

“This event is getting harder every year because there are fewer of them,” he said. Schiller expects there will be at least a half-dozen World War II veterans stopping by the airport. There are no specific seminar times scheduled, but the historical society typically sets up displays by the planes and the veterans are available to share their stories.

According to Schiller, a challenge this year is that the Golden Wings hangar is not air conditioned. The event was at the Key Air facility for the first time ever last year, which is an air conditioned facility, but it was logistically easier to have the event at the Golden Wings facility. Visitors will be able to tour the rest of the museum for only $3 to see over 30 vintage aircraft.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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