The Collings Foun­da­tion


Flight Journal - - SO YOU WANNA FLY A WARBIRD - collings­foun­da­

The big­gest player, by far, in the warbird-ex­pe­ri­ence com­mu­nity is the Collings Foun­da­tion based in Stow, Mas­sachusetts. While it does charge for rides and in­struc­tional flights, the rev­enue, which helps sup­port its air­craft, is not the rea­son why it con­ducts its Wings of Free­dom Tours. The Foun­da­tion’s “foun­da­tion” was laid down by Bob Collings back in the 1970s, when he be­gan col­lect­ing cars and then de­vel­oped a se­ri­ous ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the his­tory those ve­hi­cles rep­re­sented. His­tory be­came the in­cen­tive to col­lect and that mor­phed into a per­sonal goal of keep­ing his­tory alive and get­ting the gen­eral pub­lic in­volved.

Be­ing in New Eng­land, Bob Collings be­gan or­ga­niz­ing liv­ing his­tory events in which, as the Foun­da­tion’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing, Hunter Chaney, puts it, “Par­tic­i­pants got hands-on his­tor­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence. It was a tac­tile form of his­tory. Mr. Collings’s at­ti­tude is that to read about his­tory is one thing but to par­tic­i­pate in it is some­thing al­to­gether dif­fer­ent and [one] that leaves a more long-last­ing mark on those in­volved.”

In that arena, Collings or­ga­nized events like ice cut­ting, a true New Eng­land tra­di­tion, or op­er­at­ing farm equip­ment and other ac­tiv­i­ties that made New Eng­land what it is.

“Bob’s turn to avi­a­tion his­tory,” says Chaney, “was caused mostly by his want­ing to make the pub­lic more aware and more ap­pre­cia­tive of the tremen­dous con­tri­bu­tions made to the coun­try by its mil­i­tary veter­ans. So he be­gan seek­ing out WW II air­craft that he wanted to de­velop into some form of liv­ing his­tory event.”

Chaney says, “The Foun­da­tion was aided in the Lib­er­a­tor restora­tion by B-24 vet­eran groups that put to­gether a grass­roots fund­ing drive that lit­er­ally had them col­lect­ing do­na­tions in tin cups.”

While all of this was tak­ing place, Bob Collings was think­ing about a way to bring peo­ple closer to their avi­a­tion her­itage. Liv­ing his­tory events were still on his mind, and that led to him form an al­liance with the EAA and ap­proach the FAA about sell­ing rides in the

B-24. His thought was that there would be noth­ing that could give an in­di­vid­ual a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what veter­ans ex­pe­ri­enced than ac­tu­ally sit­ting where they sat in com­bat. The process that was in­volved in ask­ing the govern­ment to al­low some­thing that had never been done be­fore is too long and com­plex to be de­scribed here. The fact that the FAA rec­og­nized some of the same val­ues that Collings saw in liv­ing his­tory flights, how­ever, speaks vol­umes about mak­ing his­tory live again to­day.

To­day, the B-24 is joined on the 109 stops

(37 states) of the 2018 tour by the Foun­da­tion’s B-25, B-17, and one of only two orig­i­nal Tem­co­con­verted, dual-con­trol TF-51Ds known to ex­ist. Soon, other air­craft, in­clud­ing a TP-40 and an AD Skyraider, will be of­fered to the pub­lic. And while the pub­lic is see­ing the Collings Foun­da­tion air­craft on tour, con­struc­tion is un­der­way back in Stow on a mas­sive new mu­seum build­ing that is de­signed specif­i­cally to put mu­seum vis­i­tors into his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate com­bat en­vi­ron­ments (trenches, air­bases, etc.). Plus, a wide num­ber of air­craft are un­der restora­tion, in­clud­ing a backup B-17, a Hell­cat, and two FW 190s (A and D mod­els), among others. Ac­cord­ing to Chaney, “Our continual chal­lenge in ev­ery­thing we do is how to integrate ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards with thrilling ex­pe­ri­ences, both in the air and on the ground.”


Tour­ing with four air­planes re­quires a sub­stan­tial crew. (Photo cour­tesy of the Collings Foun­da­tion)

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