The National WWII Wings of Freedom Tour will be at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport through April 13, 2017. Four warbirds from World War II, a B-17, a B-24J, a B-25 and a P-51, are on display. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
Four World War II planes landed at Phoenix Deer Valley Airport around noon Monday as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour, which allows residents to see the aircraft up close and even take a flight.
The tour is presented by the Collings Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation that connects the past to the future and the next generation to the “Greatest Generation,” said Jamie Mitchell, flight coordinator for the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour.
According to Mitchell, the tour is made up of a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24J Liberator, a B-25 Mitchell, and a P-51 Mustang.
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“We have very few veterans left from the war,” said Mitchell. “The best way to honor a vet is to make sure there’s another generation there to hear their stories, appreciate them, and tell (the stories) to their own kids in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Art Foxall, 67, was walking his dogs when he saw the planes flying into Deer Valley Airport and knew he had to attend the event.
“I’ve always had a fascination with these,” said Foxall. “I think about all the guys who went over and never came back and it’s really sad that that’s the story of mankind.”
Honoring those who died
Greg Trebon, a volunteer pilot with the Collings Foundation, was the pilot in command of the B-24J Liberator, the only one still flying of the 18,000 that were built.
Trebon told The Arizona Republic he retired as a general in the U.S. Air Force and now volunteers with the Collings Foundation.
The tour visits more than 110 cities throughout the country to make the aircraft accessible to the public, said Trebon.
Trebon said that when he first started volunteering it was all about the airplane and the machine itself, but soon he realized it was about the men and women who built it and the thousands of men who flew in the planes during combat but did not return.
“The airplanes did not have armor,” said Trebon. “The men were fighting at altitudes of 25,000 feet, normally at temperatures of minus-20 degrees in the winter, fighting off frostbite, fighting off the fear, and looking for the German aircraft that were attacking them.”
It’s not unusual for veterans to associate the aircraft with combat and the fear that went along with battle, said Trebon.
“If you were flying a B-24J or a B-17J in Europe, your chances of coming home were not good,” said Trebon. “They would go to breakfast in the morning with 100 men and they’d go to dinner in the evening with 60 or 70.”
Trebon said when he flies the B-24J it is in memory of those who did not come home from WWII.
The Wings of Freedom tour is at the Deer Valley Airport until Thursday, said Mitchell. Walk-through tours are available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to noon Thursday. From there, the tour will be on display at the Goodyear and Scottsdale airports through Sunday afternoon.
Attendees can also pay to fly in the planes. For prices and details, visit collingsfoundation.org/events.
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