Four restored World War II aircraft were more than on display at the Lyon Air Museum this Mother’s Day weekend. The vintage planes are part of the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour. The quartet included two heavy bombers, a medium bomber and a dual-control escort fighter. The planes were available for viewing and for flights.
The Collings Foundation organizes living history events and seeks to help Americans learn their history through hands-on experiences with historical artifacts. The Wings of Freedom Tour does just this with the carefully restored World War II aircraft. People of all ages were welcomed at the Lyon Air Museum, located in a hangar at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, to see, touch and explore the airplanes. Flights were also available, ranging in price from $450 to $3,200.
The heavy bombers included a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Consolidated B-24 Liberator. Both of these air beasts have wingspans of over 100 feet. Both are also painted to represent famous World War II bombers. The Consolidated B-24 Liberator offered an accurate representation of the bomber “Witchcraft,” which flew a record 130 missions over the European continent. The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress flew as “Nine-O-Nine”, a part of the 8th Airforce, 91st Bombardment Group.
The medium bomber was a North American B-25 Mitchell. Taking to the air for the first time in 1940, this twin-engine bomber saw action in every theater in World War II. Almost 10,000 Mitchells were manufactured and many remained in service until 1979. The plane was named after General William “Billy” Mitchell, an early pioneer of military aviation. Mitchell is the only person with a military aircraft named in their honor.
Though all four of the aircraft were magnificent, the P-51C Mustang escort fighter was stunning. This compact fighter was originally commissioned by Britain’s Royal Air Force and manufactured by North American Aviation. Nicknamed “little friends” by the crews of the larger bombers, the P-51s flew as escorts to the bombers and had both internal and external fuel tanks, allowing for extended flights. The superior performance of the P-51 escort fighters was one of the primary foils of the German Luftwaffe in the closing years of World War II.