An interactive tour coming to Marana gives the term “history lesson” a whole new meaning. This WWII plane tour brings real, fully restored World War II-era planes to Marana for a chance to brush up on history and experience what it was like to be around these giant metal birds.
The Collins Foundation is an educational, nonprofit organization that puts the “Wings of Freedom” tours together. Going to over 30 cities across the United States, the tour will take place at the Marana Regional Airport from March 29 to 31.
The Town of Marana has been one of the tour’s stops for about 15 years, giving the community a little piece of World War II history no one else could provide. Attendees can even hop inside of each plane and take it up into the air with a pilot for a fee.
“It’s tours like this that really serve a very important function when it comes to engaging people in WWII history as a means to better understand it,” said Hunter Chaney, the director of marketing for the Collins Foundation.
Some of the planes being featured on the tour are a heavy bomber B17 Flying Fortress, which is one of only nine flying in the U.S. A B24 Liberator is another heavy bomber, these planes being one of the most mass-produced, multi-engine aircraft in American history, and this one is the last one of its type flying in the world, according to Chaney.
Other planes featured on the tour include a B25 Mitchell, a P51 Mustang fighter and just recently added to the tour is a P40 Warhawk. This particular aircraft has never been to Marana before, so the tour will have something new for attendees this year.
Attendees can take a walk through the airport runway and look at the planes up-close, with Collins Foundation crewmembers and volunteers there to talk about each plane and even guide people through the plane.
Kids especially are a major focus of the tour, according to Jamie Mitchell, the flight coordinator for Wings of Freedom. Kids can experience hearing the planes start up, look at the engines and get their hands dirty with grease and oil from the plane.
“We’re glad to be able bring these out to people and let them experience it,” Mitchell said.
World War II veterans have even come out to the tours so that attendees can talk with them about the aircraft and the war itself, which is something the Wings of Freedom Tours love to see.
“It’s something that people always remember, and what we hope is that people will use this as motivation to want to learn more about World War II history,” Chaney said. “These planes themselves act as really an excellent catalyst to do just that, to engage people in this history.”
The Wings of Freedom WWII Tour will be at the Marana Regional Airport (11700 W. Avra Valley Road) from March 29 to 31. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. World War II veterans attend for free. Visitors can take flight in the airplanes for $450-$2,200, all of which are used to keep the planes restored and running for future visitors. All flights are a tax-deductible donation.
Briannon Wilfong is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.