This weekend the Collings Foundation’s “Wings of Freedom” Tour is tied down at Scottsdale Airport with their B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine,” B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft,” and TP-51C Mustang “Betty Jane.”
Admission (including aircraft walk-through) is $12 for adults and $6 for children. WWII veterans are admitted free, of course. Seating is available in these aircraft for short flights around the area. Check the CF’s website for cost. Descriptions below are from the CF website.
The Collings Foundation B-17G was named “Nine-O-Nine” (the last three digits in the tail number) in honor of a 91st Bomb Group, 323rd Squadron plane of the same name which completed 140 missions without an abort or loss of a crewman.
The original “Nine-O-Nine” was assigned to combat on February 25, 1944. By April 1945, she had made eighteen trips to Berlin, dropped 562,000 pounds of bombs, and flown 1,129 hours. She had twenty-one engine changes, four wing panel changes, fifteen main gas tank changes, and 18 Tokyo tank changes (long-range fuel tanks). She also suffered from considerable flak damage.
After European hostilities ceased, “Nine-O-Nine”, with its six-hundred patched holes, flew back to the United States. While the rigors of war never stopped the historic “Nine-O-Nine”, she succumbed at last to the scrappers guillotine, along with thousands of other proud aircraft.
Collings Foundation’s “Witchcraft” is the world’s only flying B-24J Liberator, painted to honor another amazing warbird that was scrapped at the end of hostilities.
The history of “Witchcraft” is a story that legends are made from. The original “Witchcraft” was produced as a B-24H, built by Ford at the famous Willow Run, MI plant in 1944. It was delivered to the 467th in Wendover, Utah and initially assigned to Second Lieutenant George W. Reed and his crew who flew the aircraft to England.
“Witchcraft” safely arrived with her crew at Station 145 in Rackheath, England on March 19th, 1944, after a 20-day flight over the Atlantic. The aircraft and crew began their combat service on April 10th, 1944, flying the first combat mission of the 467th Bomb Group.
Over the next year “Witchcraft” flew an incredible 130 combat missions with various crews. “Witchcraft” was never once turned back while on a mission, and never had any crewmen injured or killed.
Her last mission was flown on April 25th, 1945 which also was the last mission flown by the 467th Bomb Group. “…Witchcraft” was there at the beginning and at the end.” After the war, she was returned to the United States and like many other B-24’s, was scrapped on October 3rd, 1945 at the surplus depot in Altus, Oklahoma.
P-51C 42-103293 “Betty Jane” was built by North American at its Dallas Facility. When the aircraft was rebuilt in 2002 and 2003 it was built as a 2 seat version of the P-51C.
The TP-51C was a field modification that added a second seat with a full second set of controls and instrumentation that could be used for training purposes. There were at least 5 TP-51Cs that were built during WWII for training purposes, and high speed VIP transport.
One of the most famous of these modified two seat fighters was used by Dwight Eisenhower and was named “The Stars Look Down.” Ike rode in the back seat of that Mustang over the beaches of Normandy to direct the invasion during D-Day.