Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WWII “Wings of Freedom” tour country

Visitors to New Orleans Lakefront Airport (KNEW) recently were treated to the spectacle of a trio of World War II veterans. These veterans, lovingly restored and cared for, looked just as young and vibrant as they did during their combat tours in the 1940s, 70 years ago. These veterans of the war against the Axis Powers were a group of American warbirds on display to benefit the National WWII Museum, which is located in New Orleans. The airplanes are operated by the Collings Foundation of Massachusetts.

The veterans on display in New Orleans included three of the aircraft most symbolic of American military aviation in WW II. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber is the 11th highest produced airplane in history with 18,482 built. The B-24 was perhaps best known for the famous Allied raid on the oil fields of Ploesti, Romania in August 1943. It served in a variety of roles including maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare, cargo transport, clandestine insertion of spies behind the lines of Nazi-occupied Europe and rescue of downed airmen in addition to its role as a bomber. “Witchcraft,” the B-24 exhibited in New Orleans, is the last flyable Liberator.

Although not as common during the war as the B-24, the B-17 Flying Fortress is much more recognizable and more remain today. Built by Boeing, the B-17 became famous for its ability to take enormous amounts of battle damage and still return. It became the symbol of American airpower. Perhaps the most famous B-17 was the “Memphis Belle,” which was the subject of a 1990 movie featuring Matthew Modine, Billy Zane, and Harry Connick, Jr.

As famous as the B-17 was North American’s P-51 Mustang. The elegant fighter plane evokes the power and grace of its thoroughbred namesake. The Mustang’s long range and maneuverability made it a valuable protector for American bombers striking deep into the heart of enemy territory. The P-51 is featured in the new movie “Red Tails” starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. which tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of black fighter pilots in the segregated WWII-era.

Aviation buffs will note that the P-51 displayed in New Orleans lacks the typical “bubble canopy” that is most commonly seen on Mustangs. This example is a TP-51, a two-seat variant of the fighter. According to the Collings Foundation’s display, the second seat was often added as a field conversion for training or VIP transport.

The three warbirds are currently touring the United States as part of the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom tour, which continues through May. A schedule of dates and stops can be found on the Collings Foundation website. The foundation also offers flight experiences in all three airplanes. In New Orleans, you can also visit the National World War II Museum to learn more about these aluminum warbirds and the iron men who flew them.

View more photos of the Wings of Freedom at:


This article was originally published on Examiner.com:


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