CORVALLIS, Ore. — Some WWII aircraft have landed at the Corvallis Airport.
It’s all part of the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour that is making its way across the nation.
You can tour or fly in the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, or P-51 Mustang. All the aircraft were flown during WWII and are still operating.
“As veterans start to pass away, we need to be able to keep their memories alive,” said Ryan Keough, the flight coordinator for the program. “This is a way for people to understand really what happened during the war. And it encourages our veterans to talk a little bit more about what they experienced during the war.”
The nonprofit group tours across the country, visiting about 110 cities.
“We’re bringing restored WWII aircrafts to local communities to honor our WWII veterans and to educate our future generations about the war,” Keough said.
The group also brings with it a history lesson for each community.
“The B-24 liberator is the last of its type out of over 18,000 that were built that still flies,” Keough said. “At 20,000 feet, they would have been flying along at temperatures of -40 degrees.”
Crew members would operate the guns without windows in the B-24s – a sight for tourists to see. Sometimes vets say it got down to 70 degrees below zero while they were 25,000 feet in the air.
“You’d have to wear big mittens while operating the guns,” Keough said. “If you took your mittens off and tried to do it with your bare hands, your hands would stick to it, because it’s kind of like a tongue against a flag pole. Basically you’d be getting frost bite at those altitudes. So it was a very harsh environment for them.”
Carl Gustafson, a Corvallis resident, flew on a B-24 Liberator out of England during WWII. He remembers the cold weather well.
“You went on oxygen at 10,000 feet,” he said. “Well you’d breathe in there so you’d have moisture in there and you get up there and it would ice up. So you had to keep crunching the oxygen mask.”
For Gustafson and other vets, they say seeing the planes brings back memories.
“I joined the Air Corps when I was 17 in 1942,” Gustafson said. “We were assigned to a crew on a B-24. It was a 10-man crew.”
He says touring the planes is a good history lesson for everyone. For Gustafson, he says he is glad his 18 grandchildren can see a piece of his past.
“You were always on edge – I don’t know about being scared,” he said about his experience aboard the B-24 Liberator. “You had to do your job. But I was 19 when I was flying over Germany.”
You can tour the planes Thursday until 5 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. It costs $12 for adults to tour the planes, $6 for kids, and is free for WWII veterans. To fly in one of the planes it costs $450 per person, or $2,200 to learn how to fly the P-51 Mustang for a half-hour lesson; $3,200 for a full hour.
For more details, call Ryan Keough at (978) 618-6626. A flight will leave the airport at 8:30 am on Friday.