Over the course of three days in late April The Collings Foundation stopped in Marana, Arizona, with their restored B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress and P-51 Mustang as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour. I drove out to Marana, Arizona, on April 19 after volunteering, arriving at 2:30 pm in the afternoon. Admission was $12 and if $450 for a 30 minute flight in either the B-17 or B-24.. I toured each aircraft and then decided to wait for the daily flights; sadly the P-51 was at a hangar due to a broken wheel strut. The history of the Collings B-17 and B-24 is fascinating story.
The B-17, Nine-O-Nine was built at Long Beach, California, and accepted into service in April 7, 1945. It served for a while as part of the 1st Reserve Squadron. In April of 1952 Nine-O-Nine was subjected to the effects of three nuclear explosions. After a 13 year cool down period, Aircraft Specialties Company brought the aircraft and used it in fire fighting. For twenty years it dropped water and borate on forest fires. In 1986 The Collings Foundation bought the B-17. They named is Nine-O-Nine in honor of same plane which completed 140 missions in Europe without losing a crew member.
The Collings B-24 Liberator Witchcraft is the only fully restored and operational Liberator. The Royal Air Force acquired the B-24 in 1944 after it was built. It saw combat in the Pacific theater as KH-191 where it participated in anti-bombing raids and resupply missions. After the war the RAF abandoned the plane at a graveyard in Khanpur, India. The Indian Air Force restored 32 B-24s and used them until 1968. Thirteen years later Doug Arnold bought KH-191 who sold it to Robert Collings. It took over five years and work on over 80 percent of the plane to restore the B-24. In 1989 the B-24 took to the skies painted to represent Witchraft: a plane that flew 130 missions in Europe without an injured crew member.(www.collingsfoundation,org and informational placards provided information for this post).