BILLINGS – After a short weather delay, The Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour has returned to Billings.
The tour, run by the Collings Foundation, features fully restored World War II aircraft. It is intended to preserve rare pieces of history, while also educating and immersing people in their heritage.
“Just thinking that we won an entire world war with these aircraft with almost no protection and with them flying 20-30,000 feet in the air at negative temperatures,” said Michael Miniero, co-pilot for the Collings Foundation.
The tour gives people a chance to see, walk inside, and even pilot World War II planes.
“So we came down with the kids to honor my grandfather’s legacy, he was a nose gunner in a B-24, served 16 combat missions, and was shot down by the Nazis in 1945,” said Jordan Work, whose grandfather was a WWII veteran.
Entering the warbirds drives home some reality to the intensity endured by the soldiers.
“Climbing through these aircraft, feeling how small they are, how little room there is, hitting their head on the low overhangs, people spent 10, 12, 14 hours at a time in this aircraft,” said Miniero.
Koston Cranford, a tour visitor, said, “Today I’m looking at these really cool planes, and there’s some new ones I really want to go into. I think the guns on them, is the coolest part, in the back of them you can get to move them, and that’s my favorite part about the planes.”
For so many in attendance, there is a sense of respect, and pride, for the brave individuals who defended this country.
Those that don’t know history are bound to repeat it, and I think for children to be able to look at what my grandfather did and look at history, hopefully, to learn from it and put it into a modern context is very important,” said Work.
The planes will be available for touring Tuesday from 9:30 until 5 pm and Wednesday from 9:30 until noon.
The event is being held at the Edwards Jet Center West Facility, which is just west of Billings Logan International Airport.