The Collings Foundation is a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501c-3), founded in 1979. The purpose of the Foundation is to organize and support “living history” events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation. This year’s tour is the “Freedom Liberator Tour 2012”. During the mid-eighties, these activities were broadened to include aviation-related events such as air shows, barnstorming, historical reunions, and joint museum displays on a nationwide level.
The “Wings of Freedom” tour stopped in Sandpoint, Idaho June 25th and 26th 2012. The event was well received by local aviation enthusiasts. Entry fee was $10 per person and included unsupervised aircraft walk through of the B-17 and B-24 Liberator with an external viewing of the TP-51C mustang. Both the B-17 and B24 were built to carry bombs to deliver to targeted enemies. Included in each aircraft were strategically stationed .50cal aircraft defense guns for attacking fighter aircraft.
When I arrived at the static display the TP-51C and B-17 were displayed on the ramp. There is less than five TP-51Cs flying and the B-17 is one of ten aircraft flying today.
As we waited for the arrival of the B-24 Liberator to arrive a student pilot was about to take his first solo flight. This was an exciting moment in this young pilot’s life. I remember well my first solo flight forty three years ago. The solo student was on downwind of his second touch and go when the B-24 Liberator announced, “Liberator two mile final”. WOW! Can one imagine in the middle of a solo flight, nervous as all get out, a B-24 Liberator landing in front of your next landing? This was a solo flight day to remember.
On time at 1535 local the B-24 Liberator touched down and rolled to the end of Sandpoint’s 5,500 foot runway, ICAO KSZT. The Liberator required a back taxi and reported his intentions to the student pilot who was now on a three mile finale. The Liberator cleared the runway, taxied to the ramp and the Cessna student pilot landed without incident.
As the Liberator taxied to the ramp an engineer was standing partially out of a hatch on top of the fuselage located behind the cockpit. His purpose was to observe wing clearance on the narrow taxi areas.
A few details about the B-17:
- Empty weight – 36,135 pounds
- Maximum aircraft weight – 72,000 pounds
- Power plants – Four 1200 hp Wright R-1820-97 Engines
- Armament – 13 M2 .50 cal. Browning Machine Guns
- Crew – 10
A few details about the B-24 Liberator:
- Empty weight 36,500 pounds
- Max. weight 65,000 pounds
- Power plants Four 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1830-65 Engines
- Armament 10 .50 cal. Machine Guns
- Crew 10
Details of NORTH AMERICAN TP-51C MUSTANG
- Empty weight – 7,450 pounds
- Max. weight – 11,200 pounds
- Power plant – 1450 hp Rolls-Royce Merlin Series
- Armament – 4 .50 cal. Browning Machine Guns
- Crew – 1
The Collings Foundation Org. posts the tour schedule on their web site.
It is an experience of historical significance to visit and enjoy as part of living history.