This weekend the Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour is in town at the Downtown Airport. Ken Cothran and I decided it would be a cool thing to do, so we headed out that way. The tour would include a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator, and a P-51 Mustang.
I picked up Ken Friday morning in Clemson and we headed toward Greenville. The airplanes didn’t open until 2:00, so we had some time. First a cup of coffee in Clemson, then we took a leisurely drive back on Highway 93, avoiding the more direct Highway 123. We drove through the towns of Central, Norris, Liberty, and Easley. We enjoyed the views, but didn’t stop for photos.
We decided to wander around downtown Greenville until time to head over to the airport. I found a perfect parking place right at the top of the entrance to Falls Park. We walked over the Liberty Bridge and took more photos of the falls.
Down in the park we walked toward the old Furman Arboretum and the smaller set of falls on the little stream.
Ken and I took the Swamp Rabbit walkway back under the bridge then up toward Falls Place. The weather and the clouds were perfect for photography. It doesn’t matter that I’ve shot these scenes a thousand times – a few more won’t hurt.
Ken had never been up as far as Linky Stone Park, so we headed that way. Eventually we made our way back to Main Street and had a bit of lunch downtown at Carolina Ale House. I had to laugh. I was only armed with my little Panasonic, and didn’t have either of my DSLRs. Ken similarly was only carrying a point and shoot today. Even so, the hostess asked us if we were photographers. Weird. I said that, in fact, we were, and almost pulled out one of my cards.
After lunch it was time to head to the airport. When we got there, things were hopping quite a crowd had gather. The planes had not yet arrived, and it seemed there was some delay. We joined a large group that had gathered in the new airport park playground next to the Runway Cafe. I had originally though about having lunch there, but was glad we’d gone ahead and eaten in town, given the crowds.
Eventually we got word that one of the bombers, the B-17 Flying Fortress, was on its way. Before long I spotted it to the north, taking a flight path that would have taken it right over our house. The huge plane did a fly-by, then landed from the south, on our end of the runway.
This particular plane is a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress designated “Nine O Nine”. The plane was impressive as it taxied down the runway and pulled up pretty much right in front of us. The plane waited for a few minutes as a group of World War II veterans boarded for a courtesy flight. It then taxied back out and took off again.
Soon the B-24 Liberator and P-51 flew over in formation. The bomber is a Consolidated B-24J Liberator designated “Witchcraft”, and the fighter plane was a trainer version of the Mustang, a North American TP-51C Mustang designated “Betty Jane”. Over the airport the P-51 broke off and swung around for its landing. The larger plane followed. It was amazing to watch.
The P-51 taxied into position first, followed by the B-24. A hatch was open on top of the bomber, and someone was sitting up top, spotting as the plan taxied. The huge plane turned right in front of us, and Ken and I felt the backwash from the four props.
With these two planes in position, the B-17 returned with its passengers. It was nice to see another flyover.
Crews worked to put up ropes and displays for the tours. Soon all three planes were ready for tours.
Our plan had been to take one of the tours. However, given the crowds on hand, we decided not to. I took Ken on back to Clemson. But that wasn’t the last of the planes. Our house is right in the flight path. Laura saw one of the planes fly over as she was pulling into the driveway. This morning I heard their distinctive sounds a couple of times as they flew over. I’m sure we’ll see them more as the tour lasts through Sunday.