Ever wondered what it’s like inside a World War II heavy bomber? The Collings Foundation will not only give you the opportunity to find out, they’ll bring it to you.
A private non-profit, the Collings Foundation acts as organizers and supporters of transportation-related “living history,” which they describe on their website as “the preservation, exhibition and interaction of historical artifacts that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation.” The organization has headquarters with an airfield and a small museum in Stow, Massachusetts, but take two touring collections of historic military aircraft around the country.
The first is called the “Wings of Freedom Tour”, a WWII-themed showcase featuring a fully restored B-24 Liberator called “Witchcraft” and a B-17 Flying Fortress, “Nine’O’Nine”. Recently added to the roster? “Betty Jane”, a sexy P-51C Mustang escort fighter that many WWII aircraft buffs will swear is the finest fighter aircraft that ever saw air.
The second and newer tour is a tribute to the Vietnam War, the “Vietnam Memorial Flight”. It’s basically the same program as the WWII tour; tours of the aircraft with the possibility of small flights, education, and meet and greets with veterans to learn more about those who sacrificed and served in their respective wars. The big difference is obviously the aircraft–a McDonnell F-4D Phantom II, a Douglas TA-4J Skyhawk, a Bell UH-1E Huey, and the F-100F Super Sabre.
Not just all about the aircraft, the foundation also does events with and showcases ground vehicles; tanks, race cars, and assorted vintage cars including Fred Duesenberg’s personal Duesenberg SJ Dual-Cowl Phaeton. They participate in rallies, sleigh rides, barnstorming, airshows, and national collaborations with other like-minded organizations.
Relying heavily on volunteers for most aspects of their operation, the Stowe facilities have numerous restoration projects constantly in progress, and hosts educational events and fundraising for other non-profits. The museum is open to the public by appointment.