A flying memorial

World War II planes, veterans to fly into Destin

Savannah Vasquez
Gabriel Decoff, left, 9, of Spencer, salutes World War II Air Force veteran Bill Purple, right, in front of a B-17 bomber during the Wings of Freedom event at the Worcester Regional Airport in Worcester. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Known lovingly as the flying memorial of World War II, the Wings of Freedom Tour, sponsored by the Collings Foundation, will be visiting Destin once again from Friday, March 2 – Sunday, March 4.

Three World War II era aircraft, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, a Consolidated B-24 Liberator and a TF-51D Mustang Fighter will fly into Destin Executive Airport for the three-day walk-through and flight experience tour.

“We are looking forward to coming back again,” said the foundation’s director of marketing Hunter Chaney – noting a three-year absence from Destin. “This year we will be doing 109 cities and when we come into to Destin it will be our 3,261st stop in our 29 years of touring.”

Chaney said that the mission of the aircraft tour is to bring World War II history to life so that the future generations not only know what life was like during the war, but also in the hope that future world wars can be avoided.

“To read about World War II history is something you might remember, but to experience something from World War II history is something you will never forget,” he said. “We hope people have a better appreciation of what it must have been like during World War II and we hope that it will ultimately cause people to want to learn more.”

Chaney said this year the Destin leg of the tour will be extra special as two local World War II veterans will be flying into Destin aboard the vintage aircraft on Friday.

“This year two local World War II veterans – Sam Lombardo and John Beard – will be joining us on our in-bound flight,” Chaney said. “We really roll the red carpet out for our World War II veterans.”

During the exhibition, visitors can explore the World War II aircraft and meet the crew or sign up for a 30 minute flight experience.

“People have the ability to crawl through the inside on the two heavy bombers and get a close look at the Mustang,” Chaney said of the tours. “When people come out and see the planes, what they are seeing is really straight out of 1944. To fly in these planes really transports you into a foreign environment. It is truly a historic experience you just can’t find anywhere else.”

Wings of Freedom will be at the Destin Executive Airport at the Lynx hanger located at 1001 Airport Road Building 15 on Friday, March 2 from 2-4:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 4 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cost for walk-through tours are $15 for adults and $5 for kids 12 years and younger. World War II veterans are free of charge. No reservations are needed for walk-through. Flight experiences aboard the aircraft range from $400 to $450. For flight reservations call 1-800-568-8924. For more information visit www.collingsfoundation.org.

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