WWII aircraft arrive today at Wheeling airport
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World War II bomber and fighter aircraft will arrive at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling today, bringing the suburbs a tangible history of the war.
The three-day Wings of Freedom Tour will feature two iconic bombers, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Consolidated B-24 Liberator, as well as one P-51 Mustang fighter.
The planes were scheduled to land at the airport at 1:30 p.m. today, but poor weather has pushed back the landing to 3 p.m. On Saturday and Sunday, hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are $12; $6 for 12 and under. Veterans can tour the aircraft for free.
Some may choose to take their exploration to the skies. A ticket to fly in either bomber is $425 for a half-hour. A half-hour flight in the P-51 Mustang costs $2,200, and an hour flight is $3,200.
Proceeds from the Wings of Freedom Tour go to the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit that organizes and supports events for people to learn about history through participation.
"When it comes to honoring and engaging people in World War II history, there is no more effective means than to explore through and fly in a fully restored World War II aircraft," said Hunter Chaney, the foundation's director of marketing.
Each aircraft tells a story. The B-17 bomber is one of only eight in the U.S. still flying, while the B-24 coming to Chicago Executive Airport is the last of its kind.
The P-51 Mustang was the first fighter plane that could follow the formations and targets with bombers, whose pilots called the fighters their "little friends."
"If they saw them they knew they were safe," said Chaney. "This plane saved thousands and thousands of young men from being shot down from attacking fighters."
Attendees of the Wings of Freedom Tour will experience history firsthand and remember the more than 88,000 air corps members who lost their lives in World War II.
"That's where the importance of living history programs come into play. If you read, you might remember it, but if you experience history like this you'll never forget it," Chaney said.
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