Seven decades ago, the B-17, B-24 and P-51 Mustang were soaring through the sky performing war missions.
Monday, March 3, they landed at the Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores with their fighting days long behind them.
The same can be said for many of the veterans that flew them over the most dangerous battlefields of World War II.
Retired 2nd Lt. Bill Molaschi, 82, spent 3 years and nearly 700 hours piloting a B-17 through Nazi occupied Europe.
He got a chance to ride inside one and said it brought back memories of firefights.
“It’s bringing back old memories and you can’t help but enjoy it,” said Molaschi, “The worst part of the whole thing was flying through flak. There were things exploding all around you. My plane did get damage but the plane held together and we got back OK.”
Veteran Buck Walker, 93, served on 50 missions as a tailgunner aboard a B-17.
“One time, they shot down 14 planes and I thought I was next. That’s when a P38 saved my hide. That was before my last mission. I had one to go,” Walker said.
The event was a part of the Wings of Freedom Tour which brings refurbished planes to areas around the country.
Veterans told FOX 10 the event also brought back memories of those they served beside.
“We lost 60 percent of our group. That’s a lot of people we lost,” said Molaschi.
According to the Massachusetts-based nonprofit foundation with its dedication to living history events, the B-17 is one of only eight in flying condition in the United States, the B-24J and full dual-control P-51C Mustang are the last two of their kind still able to fly.
The tour will be open Monday, March 3, through Wednesday, March 5 at the airport’s Gulf Shores Air Center, 3190 Airport Drive. The aircraft are expected to arrive about noon March 3 and depart at noon March 5. Walk-through tour times are set for noon to 5 p.m., March 3; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 4; and 9 a.m. to noon March 5.
Admission of $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for up-close viewing and inside tours. Visitors can also pay to fly in one of the aircraft. Half-hour flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person and P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour.
For more information, call 800-568-8924 or visit www.collingsfoundation.org.