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B-17 FLYING FORTRESS ON DISPLAY IN CRESCENT CITY

Wings of Freedom's B-17G Flying Fortress arrived in Crescent City Friday. ().
Wings of Freedom's B-17G Flying Fortress arrived in Crescent City Friday. ().

By SUSAN SCHELL

The Flying Fortress has landed at Jack McNamara Field in Crescent City.

The "Nine-O-Nine," an authentic restored B-17 World War II bomber, flew into Crescent City and will be on display this weekend.

The Nine-O-Nine was named after the 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Squadron plane, which completed 140 missions during World War II without an abort or the loss of a crewman.

Visitors can tour the restored bomber, and groups of six or more may take a ride on the plane for a $350 tax-deductible donation per person, depending on the weather.

Crescent City is one of the scheduled stops on the Wings of Freedom Tour to honor American patriotism and courage.

The tour is sponsored by the Collings Foundation, which purchased and restored the Boeing B-17G and a B-24J Liberator that was used in Europe and the Pacific in the American fight for freedom during the second World War.

The B-24 was grounded in Chico, Calif., for repairs and was unable to make the tour to Crescent City as originally scheduled. It will join the tour in Klamath Falls on Sunday.

The Flying Fortress was piloted from Chico by Larry Tobin and Rob Collings.

The crowd gathered at the airport witnessed the unusual sight of the giant war plane struggling to land against gale-force winds at McNamara Field.

Collings said the trip from Chico was "smooth, except for the landing."

"The landing conditions were as bad as it gets," he said. "I aged a lot today."

The Collings family, who reside in Boston, started the Collings Foundation "to preserve our national history and pay tribute to the veterans of World War II."

"My parents set up the foundation to preserve the history of aviation," Collings said.

"It is important to share these planes with the public, because if it wasn't for these planes and their crews, we wouldn't have the freedom we have today."

Tobin, a retired pilot who flew for TWA for 31 years, offers an insight into the history of the flying bombers.

"Most of the kids that flew these planes during WWII were 18-and-19-year-olds," he said.

"The average life span of the crew was about 15 missions. But they had to fly 35 missions before they could go home. So you can imagine, a lot of them didn't come home."

The unique aspect of the Wings of Freedom Tour is that the planes actually fly into airports and are available for hands-on tours.

Visitors can stroll along the cat walk above the bomb bay doors, breathe the gas fumes and see smashed bugs on the window of the gun turret.

"There are only three B-17's currently flying," Collings said. "The rest are in museums."

The bombers are on tour 10 months out of the year and make 135 nationwide stops.

The crew are all volunteers, but Collings said the tour does not need to advertise to attract crew members.

"They find us," he said. "People come up to us on our tours, wanting to fly the aircraft. We get hundreds of resumes a year, but we only have a three-man flight crew."

Collings said the current crew comes from all over the United States, "from Florida to Alaska."

"It's an interesting way to see the country and be a part of the aircraft," he said.

The Flying Fortress will be on display today (June 8) from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The tour has been reduced from the regular price because only one plane landed in Crescent City: $4 for adults and $2 for kids.

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