WWII Warbirds will rumble over Dayton: You can fly in one

Three rumbling World War II-era bombers and a classic fighter plane on Wednesday will soar over the Miami Valley.

A B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell and a two-seat P-51 Mustang, part of the “Wings of Freedom Tour,” are scheduled to land at Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Twp. between 1:30 and 2 p.m. Wednesday, an organizer said.

Visitors can pay to fly in each of the historic warbirds on the tour through Friday, organizers said.

“Some of the aircraft are very rare,” said spokesman Hunter Chaney.

The non-profit Collings Foundation in Stow, Massachusetts sponsors the tour of the collection of historic planes. The tour last trekked to Dayton in 2013.

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Jamie Mitchell was a geologist in Pasadena, California looking at rocks when she decided to get above the earth in flying artifacts of American history.

Mitchell, 35, lives with the aircraft on tours to more than 100 locations across the country, spending more than 320 days on the road last year alone.

“When I found out I could work with them I left my old job for this,” she said.

As flight coordinator, she manages the barnstorming entourage of four full-time personnel and a dozen or more volunteers who pilot the planes and turn wrenches to keep the historic planes in the sky.

“We want to make sure this goes on forever and people really appreciate the veterans (and) the sacrifices they made,” she said.

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Many veterans have a connection to the B-24J Liberator, the only combat veteran of the bunch, she said. It served with the British Royal Air Force in the South Pacific and India and later with the Indian Air Force until the 1970s, she said.

The plane “doesn’t look sexy or anything, but it did its job and it’s the only one left” of its kind still flying, she said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The “huge” bomber is also the most difficult to fly, said Mitchell, who acts as a flight engineer on some trips.

The classic Mustang is her own and a crowd favorite, and may fly aerobatics on a visitor flight, she said.

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“It’s every pilot’s dream to fly in a Mustang so that’s why we put it on tour,” she said.

Keeping the aging, decades-old bomber and fighter in the skies requires about 10 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air, Chaney said.

“They’re expensive to operate but they’re kind of these wonderful, historical jewels that people will be able to touch, to interact with,” he said.

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The costs to fly in the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person and in the B-25 its $400 a seat for a half-hour flight, organizers said.

The P-51 costs $2,200 a ticket for a half hour and $3,200 for an hour-long flight, according to the foundation.

Adults and teen-agers may tour the aircraft for $15 and children under 12 for $5, the foundation said.

Tour hours are scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, and 9 a.m. to noon Friday. The location at the airport is Aviation Sales, Inc., 10600 N. Springboro Pike.

To make a reservation to fly on one of the warbirds, call 800-568-8924.

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