The Museum of Flight in Seattle hosts the Collings Foundation each year to show off their fantastic collection of World War Two aircraft and to take up many people on joy flights. The key purpose of the foundation is to enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation (they have aircraft that cover the early years of aviation, World War Two, the Korean War and Vietnam War).
This year over the Independence Day weekend, the visiting fleet included some magnificent aircraft and flying legends. Present were Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine“, Consolidated B-24J Liberator “Witchcraft“, North American B-25 Mitchell “Tondeleyo” and a North American TP-51C Mustang “Betty Jane” (originally a single seat P-51C, when rebuilt between 2001 and 2002 an additional seat was added with full controls to be used as a training aircraft. At least 5 such aircraft are said to have been built during the war).
Consolidated B-24J Liberator “Witchcraft” has an interesting history. Constructed in August 1944 it first flew with the USAAF, then from October 1944 it saw combat with the RAF in the Pacific theatre then at the end of the war in 1945 it was abandoned by the RAF in India, presumably to never fly again. The Indians had other ideas, repaired it along with similar B-24’s and put them back into service with the Indian Air Force until 1968. Abandoned again it was recovered in 1981, found its way to the US and was restored making its return to the skies in 1989 and is still going strong today!
Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine” was manufactured too late in 1945 to see combat in World War Two but went on to serve with the USAAF Air/Sea 1st Rescue Squadron and later in the USAF Military Air Transport Service. She should have met a less than glorious fate of being scrapped after being subject to three, yes three nuclear explosions in 1952 to test the effects on instruments and the airframe! Somehow she survived and after “cooling down” for over 13 years was eventually sold for scrap. Against all odds the aircraft had damaged skin and parts replaced, cleaned and repaired. She was totally rewired and 1,219 metres / 4000 feet of new control cable was installed!
The B-17 was resurrected and spent 20 years operating as a fire-bomber. She was finally retired in 1986 and then purchased by the Collings Foundation, who restored the aircraft back to its war-time configuration. Badly damaged in a landing accident in 1987, a subsequent huge repair job was undertaken to return her to flight once again. “Nine-O-Nine” has been going strong ever since (the original aircraft it is painted to look like was a European Theatre aircraft that flew and survived 18 missions over Berlin between February 1944 and April 1945 but was scrapped after the war).
Now I didn’t go for a flight but I enjoyed seeing the aircraft up close and then taking off and landing. A fun day!