World War II Veterans called up for one more mission

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LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Some Southwest Florida veterans were called up for one more mission to fly on the Wings of Freedom!

Monday, vintage planes from the World War II era flew veterans from Naples to Fort Myers, taking them back in time when the planes and their special passengers were fighting the war.

Living members of what’s often called the greatest generation landed on board these legendary war birds at Page Field.¬† It’s all part of the Collings Foundation’s, Wings of Freedom Tour!

July 4, 1945, was the last time Retired Army/Airforce Pilot Bob Byorick was in a B-17 bomber.

“I was just a passenger, but it was a thrill,” said Byorick.

Now, 70 years later, at 91-years-young, he was able to rekindle his memories of being at the controls. Together, they helped win the war, and he says it was like old times.

“I was completely relaxed, I had my son with me.”

He was given this once in a lifetime chance to ride in this restored B-17 bomber, and told his son stories about his missions.

“I was describing the operation, like when we started the engine, and warmed up the runway and we took off.”

But, Byorick says this flight is his last operation.

“I’m glad it happened, I don’t think I will be flying in one again.”

Three planes, a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator and this North American P-51 Mustang are all part of the Wings of Freedom Tour. The planes are rare flying museums, treasures of aviation history, and so are the special crew members who flew on them.

“I think it’s amazing, they have worked so hard to get those aircraft back in the air and keeping them there,” said Veteran Walter Davidson.

There B-17 bomber is one of eight left in the United States and the B-24 bomber is the only one left flying. The traveling museum will be on display at Page Field until Thursday. You can also pay to set up a flight on one of the planes.

The Wings of Freedom Tour arrived at Page Field Airport at 2 p.m. on February 9 and will be on display at Main Terminal – West Ramp at Page Field Airport until the aircraft departs February 12 after 12 p.m.

Hours of ground tours and display are:
*2 p.m.- 4 p.m. on Monday, February 9
*9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 10
*9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Wednesday, February 11
*9 a.m.- 12 p.m. on Thursday, February 12

The 30-minute flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the ground tour times above.

Visitors are invited to explore the aircraft inside and out – $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours through the inside of the aircraft.

WWII Veterans can tour through the aircraft at no cost. Discounted rates for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft.

Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person. Get some “stick time” in the world’s greatest fighter! P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour. For reservations and information on flight experiences call 800-568-8924.

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