World War II planes visit Tri-Cities

Wings Of Freedom

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Two vintage World War II planes that helped gain our country's freedom touched down at the Tri-Cities Regional Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

It is just one of the stops for the "Wings of Freedom Tribute." The tour honoring veterans will visit 110 cities.

For many people who were there when the planes touched down, it was like stepping back in time to see the amazing War Birds. Their guns are silent now, as their mission gives plane enthusiasts an up-close glimpse of the air craft that helped change the course of a nation. "Just being a World War II buff, just seeing them up close, was great," said Arthur Delaney, a plane enthusiast.

The Collings Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to preserving the old War Birds, have spent years restoring the flying machines with hopes of educating the young and giving Veterans a chance to relive their past. "We are trying to get it out to the World War II vets while their still alive," said Frank Hale, volunteer. "We run into a lot of air crew members and they want to bring their families out to see what they flew during the war."

The B-24 Liberator Bomber that flew into the TCRA is currently the only one still flying. It took 97,000 man hours to fully restore the plane.

Hale said the Liberator was instrumental in winning the war with more than 130 combat missions. "It takes a lot of TLC," Hale said. "We do have a mechanic that travels with the airplanes and they do the major work. We all pitch in and do whatever it takes to keep these airplanes going."

Hale calls it a labor of love for those who want to keep history alive for future generations. "The men that flew in these planes are a great generation. They served their country. When their country called they went," Delaney said.

The planes will be at the airport on Thursday. The cost of walking through the planes is $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12. Visitors can also take a 30-minute ride for $425.

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