Historic WWII aircraft coming to Chicago Executive Airport this weekend
Nothing planned this coming weekend? Even if you do have plans, if you love airplanes, you may want to reschedule because Chicago Executive Airport has a special treat on hand for you this weekend.
On any given day, airplane enthusiasts can come out to Chicago Executive Airport and, from the safety of the observation area on the south side of the airfield along Palatine Road, can watch the planes come and go. But, starting at noon on Friday, July 27, and extending through Monday, July 30, visitors can get up close and personal with several very special aircraft.
Each year for more than a decade, The Collings Foundation, headquartered in Stow, MA, has brought historic aircraft to Chicago Executive Airport as part of their Wings of Freedom tour. The organization, founded in 1979, provides ‘living history events’ to remind people of the price that veterans paid for the liberties Americans often take for granted. The exhibits also engage younger viewers and promote an interest in aviation.
Chicago Executive Airport is one of more than 100 stops in the tour that will cover more than 25,000 miles.
This year, the tour includes three World War II aircraft: a B-17G Flying Fortress, a B-24J Liberator and a P-51C Mustang. The B-24 is the last of its kind still flying in the world. The B-17 is one of about a dozen versions of the aircraft still flying.
“Chicago Executive Airport is a mainstay of our tour,” said Hunter Chaney, the director of marketing for The Collings Foundation. “We start in Florida and do a giant zig-zag route around the United States.”
The planes are flown by volunteers and carry support staff and mechanics to maintain the planes and help with the exhibits.
As Chaney put it, “It’s a 24/7 operation. In addition to keeping the inspections and records for the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), we go well beyond what is required. These are three of the most loved and well cared for aircraft in the world.”
What this means for visitors, who come out to Chicago Executive Airport for the tour stop, is that they’ll see three beautifully restored and maintained historic aircraft. All three plane types played significant roles in defeating fascist Germany and Italy and Imperial Japan.
For a price, $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12, visitors can walk around the aircraft and take guided tours inside the bombers. For those who really have a penchant for historic aircraft, there is even an opportunity to go up for a ride in a plane of their choice.
The rides, however, are not inexpensive. A 30-minute ride in the B-17 or B-24, both four-engine heavy bombers, runs $425 per person. A ride in the P-51 is $2,200 for half an hour and $3,200 for an hour.
While the price is steep, Chaney said that, in terms of the costs of operation, the price is essentially breakeven for The Collings Foundation. Going up in the P-51, however, offers more than a ride.
The P-51 has been modified to include two complete cockpits, one behind the other. One cockpit is for an expert flier the other for the rider. In the air, the latter actually takes control of the plane. In fact, the flight qualifies as actual flight-training time.
“If you read about WWII history, or listen to a lesson in a classroom, you might not forget it,” Chaney said. “But, if you fly in one of these aircraft, if you experience WWII history firsthand, you never forget.”
The hours over the course of the weekend are:
- Friday, July 27, from 2 to 5 p.m.
- Saturday, July 28, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Sunday, July 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Monday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to noon
Flight experiences take place before and after tours. Call 978-562-9182 for flight reservations.
The planes will be on display on the east side of the airport off Milwaukee Avenue.