WWII bombers to return to Altoona-Blair County Airport

MARTINSBURG – The restored World War II aircraft that typically draw a crowd to the Altoona-Blair County Airport are scheduled to return next week for viewing and flights.

“That airport is a great stop for us,” said Hunter Chaney, marketing director for the Collings Foundation of Stowe, Mass. “We usually get a lot of World War II veterans there.”

The foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour, now in its 25th year, will arrive at the airport shortly before 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15, and remain available for tours and flights on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16 and 17.

This year’s plans call for the presentation of two bombers: the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator.

In addition, the P-51 Mustang, which often flew with bombers to protect crew from enemy fire, will be part of this year’s tour. It was undergoing maintenance last year when the tour stopped in Blair County.

It’s great for the airport to have this tour stop again, Altoona-Blair County Airport Manager Tim Hite said recently after receiving confirmation of the stop. The airport terminal building and the airport’s restaurant, now under new management, will be open while the aircraft are on display.

The Collings Foundation is in its 25th year of operating the tour, making it the most long-lived tour of historic aircraft in the world, Chaney said.

“When Bob Collings first started this tour, there were a couple of stops. Then they added a couple more and a couple more. They thought this was something that would continue for about five years, but here it is 25 years later,” Chaney said. “And one of the reasons why is that we now have a network of thousands of volunteers who help us with all the logistics that go with bringing in these airplanes.”

When the tour started, Chaney said it typically attracted World War II veterans, but that’s changing as they now see family members and history buffs.

“There’s a fascination with this aircraft,” Chaney said. “People remember their loved ones and want to learn something more about their time in the war. Those veterans are either now in their 90s, or they’ve left this world.”

The bombers and the P-51 will be parked on the airport grounds, behind a fence. World War II veterans will be admitted free for an up-close view of the aircraft. Other adults will pay $12, and children under 12 will be charged $6. Flights are available at a charge of $450 per person for a 30-minute ride in the bombers or at $2,200 for a 30-minute ride in the P-51.

“What we hope we do and continue to strive for, during this tour, is to remind people of the great sacrifices that were made during this era,” Chaney said. “If people understand World War II history, then they’re better able to make wiser decisions for our nation’s future.”

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.