World War II history flying into Leesburg

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The P-51 Mustang ‘Toulouse Nuts’ is one of the WWII aircraft scheduled to stop at Leesburg International Airport in February. // Photo courtesy of the Collings Foundation

Three legendary planes will visit Leesburg International Airport this month as part of the 2019 Wings of Freedom Tour, providing a rare glimpse of World War II aviation history.

Presented by the Collings Foundation, the event showcases fully restored classic military aircraft for an up-close look, cockpit tours, and unforgettable rides. The distinctive aircraft are scheduled to arrive at 2pm Thursday, Feb. 7, and will be on display at the airport’s main ramp through Sunday, Feb. 10, a news release states. Leesburg International Airport is at 8807 Airport Blvd., off U.S. Highway 441.

Visitors are invited to explore the planes and look inside. Walk-through admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 years old and younger. Thirty-minute flights aboard the B-17 and B-24 planes are available for $450 per person.

The collection includes the P-51 Mustang “Toulouse Nuts” fighter, among the world’s most iconic warplanes, which were used for bomber escorts and fighting over Europe during WWII. It later served during the Korean War. This particular aircraft was awarded the prestigious Grand Champion award for restoration.

The B-24J Liberator “Witchcraft,” a four-engine bomber stretching 67 feet long, is the only plane of its kind flying today, according to the Collings Foundation, a nonprofit educational foundation based in Massachusetts. Five years and 97,000 hours of labor were required to restore the B-24J Liberator to flight readiness. The plane holds the record as the most produced American military aircraft in history. Together, the B-24 and B17 were the backbone of the U.S. war effort from 1942-1945.

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The B-17 Flying Fortress ‘Nine-O-Nine’ on display in 2015 at Leesburg International Airport. // City of Leesburg photo

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine-O-Nine” is one of the most widely recognized types of aircraft used during WWII. The bomber, one of only nine in flying condition in the United States, is powered by four 1,200-horsepower engines and has a wingspan of more than 103 feet. In WWII, the B-17 developed a reputation for toughness, dropping more bombs than any other U.S. aircraft used during the war, the release states.

The Wings of Freedom Tour started in 1989 and visits more than 30 states annually.

“For many years, it has been a privilege to be a regular stop on the Wings of Freedom tour,” airport manager Tracey Dean says in the release. “The turnout to see these unique aircraft has always been strong, and we are looking forward to another great, history-filled weekend.”

For more information, call 800.568.8924 or visit collingsfoundation.org.

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