Collings Foundation Ends Wings of Freedom WWII Aircraft Tours


Collings Foundation
Collings Foundation’s B-24J Liberator and P-51D Mustang. (Photo: Collings Foundation)

In the wake of the 2019 B-17 Flying Fortress accident, the Foundation decided to ground its aircraft and put them on permanent display.

The Collings Foundation, whose Wings of Freedom tour brought World War II aircraft to airshows across the United States offering rides aboard the B-17G, B-25, B-24 and P-51D, has decided to permanently ground its aircraft and put them on display at the Foundation’s American Heritage Museum. The decision comes in the wake of the 2019 B-17 Flying Fortress accident, which caused the death of five passengers, the pilot and the copilot.

According to Flying Magazine, the decision was disclosed trough the Collings Foundation American Heritage Museum newsletter, which stated the Foundation is moving forward on the long-term plans to bring the aircraft from a nationwide flying exhibition to permanent display in Hudson, Massachusetts. The Museum has a collection of military vehicles spanning the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard and other nations with 50 aircraft and over 90 vehicles in addition to large artifacts.

The expansion of the museum will add more than 90,000 square feet of space to display the most iconic aircraft from World War I and World War II, but it appears that only ground vehicles will still be operated as part of the “living history” events. No other info about the plans were released in addition to the newsletter.

Since 1989, a major focus of the Foundation has been the “Wings of Freedom Tour” of WWII aircraft. This tour showcased fully restored bomber aircraft, a B-17G Flying Fortress, a B-24J Liberator and a B-25 Mitchell, in addition to a P-51D Mustang fighter aircraft. During the 31 years of activity, the tour has made more than 3,500 visits to airports across the United States and Alaska.

During the tour, the Foundation offered paid rides on its aircraft, and one of these ended in a fatal crash four years ago.

In fact, on October 2, 2019, the B-17G Flying Fortress named “Nine-O-Nine” crashed at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Of the thirteen passengers and crewmembers onboard the aircraft for the Living History Flight Experience, seven were killed.

According to the official National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Aviation Investigation Final Report into the accident, there were numerous maintenance and operational oversights that contributed to the accident sequence. The final ruling in the investigation concluded that pilot error following an engine failure that was a result of inadequate maintenance were the predominant factors contributing to the accident and the fatalities in the crash.

The Collings Foundation “Nine-O-Nine” B-17G crash led to numerous restrictions for warbird passenger flights until the investigation was concluded. In 2020, the FAA also ruled that the Foundation could no longer accept money from people who wanted to fly aboard its World War II aircraft. The rides during the tour were effectively halted immediately after the crash, with the Foundation stating earlier this year that the tour was still on hiatus and with no plans to resume in 2023.

Stefano D’Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he’s also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.


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