WW II-era planes over Connecticut

A B-17 bomber is part of the Wings of Freedom Tour.

STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Imagine it’s 1944 and you’re on a bombing run over Germany. That’s exactly what the B-17 now on display at Sikorsky Memorial Airport was built for. It’s named after a famous plane that flew 140 missions in World War Two – plane number 231909.

“They started racking up the missions and they put the nose art on the side of the aircraft,” said Ryan Keough, the Wings of Freedom tour flight coordinator. “A little leprechaun thumbing his nose at the Germans, and they just started calling it the old nine oh nine.”

Today, the Collings Foundation keeps the 909 and a few other vintage planes up in the air so we can all see what it was like 70 years ago. It’s hard to imagine in the age of air travel today, but the crews in WWII were flying with no pressurization, no oxygen and no heat. They just bundled up in their flight suits.

GALLERY: WW II Planes in Connecticut

Don Murray flew B-25s in WW II.
Don Murray flew B-25s in WW II.
Don Murray remembers doing just that when he flew B-25s over the Pacific in World War II. He’s 91 now and says he took a trip in the old 909 just for fun. When he was asked if it was more fun now that no one was trying to shoot him down, he laughed and said, “Oh yeah, but they never did.”

The Wings of Freedom tour includes another bomber, a B-24 liberator known as “Witchcraft”. “It flew primarily the heavy bomber missions over Germany,” Keough said. “8th Air Force, you everybody talks about the mighty 8th Air Force.”

The tour also has a restored P-51 Mustang, the fighter flown by the famed Tuskegee Airmen. A closer look at the propeller shows it was made by Hamilton Standard in East Hartford, Connecticut. When these planes come to Connecticut, Keough says, so many of the visitors are the ones who once made parts for them.

Looking out the window of a B-17.
Looking out the window of a B-17.

“And even more so today you have their family members coming out as they find things in their attic and say my God, my dad used to work for Sikorsky,” Keough said. “Can you tell me a little bit more about this photo, maybe something so I can have some relevance to what he did during the war.”

If you want to see the Wings of Freedom, the planes are on display at Sikorsky Memorial Airport from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 3rd and Thursday, September 4th, then 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, September 5th. Then the planes fly to Waterbury-Oxford Airport for the weekend. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week the planes will be at Groton-New London Airport.

You can tour these planes on the ground for $12 for adults, $6 for kids. If you’ve got a few hundred dollars, you can take a ride up in the bombers – that $450 a ride. Or if you want to fly in the Mustang, that’ll cost you $2200 for a half hour ride, but they hand you the stick.

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