At 6:30am the wake up call jars my mind and after a quick shower it is off to hotel breakfast. At 8:00am sharp the crew van leaves for the airport. we are 15 members and the van is packed and quiet.
Arriving at the airport we check the planes and the perimeter fence and suddenly there is a crowd of excited people who are going on a 30 minute flight in either the B-17 or B-24. The B-17 is the most popular and will fly every day while the cousin B-24 could have a morning rest. We need a minimum of 6 passengers to make the flight pay for itself.
After safety briefing the planes are loaded, the radials are fired up, and off they go with their load of people, loaded with cameras for this "Once in a Lifetime event" or for the few WW2 veterans who can still fly, a memory flight into the past. When the planes return we ready them for the many visitors who are going to see the inside of a WW2 bomber for the first time. The P-51C Mustang is parked on the side and is flying when somebody wants a ride and fly the two seat dual control fighter.
I am the Gatekeeper, the Meeter, the Greeter and the Talker on the Collings "Wings of Freedom Tour". I control the gate and collect the nominal fee we charge for people to see the planes up close and to walk through them. I stand at the gate and talk constantly to the steady stream of visitors. After a few hours I get a break ,as you get "potty brained" by repeating yourself 700 times in two hours.
The day flies and I am telling stories about our planes and aviation and everything else and at 4:30pm the crowds thins out and we do another 1-2-3 flights with the early evening crowd. When that is over, the planes are secured for the night and we head back to the hotel for a 10min refresh and then it is off to dinner where the talk is all about aviation.
We fly between cities and depending on the boss and the people like media etc.that are invited to fly with us, it is either one or the other. I seem to alternate between the B-17 and B-24, which means I have quite a flew flights in each type.
8-10 days twice a year is what I can handle, some crew members are doing a lot more and some are there for the 10months of the year as the "Wings of Freedom Tour" criss crosses the USA. For more about the tour and the Collings Foundation: http://collingsfoundation.org
Mon, Oct 24 2011 2:00 PM
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