World War II-era aircraft arrive in Groton

Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Groton — After a weekend spent aboard historic ships in the Maritime Heritage Festival, a few residents took to the sky to experience flight aboard historic aircraft from World War II Monday.

As part of the "Wings of Freedom" tour, the nonprofit Collings Foundation brought three World War II aircraft to Groton-New London Airport.

Jack Gosselin of North Stonington flew on the B-17 "Flying Fortress" heavy bomber as the tour moved from its previous stop in Waterbury and traveled to Groton.

During the trip, they flew low, at a few thousand feet because the cabin of the plane is not pressurized, and Gosselin was able to walk back and forth along the length of the airplane.

It was one of the "top ten experiences of my life," he said.

He was in awe of the more than 70-year-old plane's mechanical control wires running down the body of the plane, which the pilot uses to operate the wing flaps and other aircraft functions.

"It's loud, with the same display, same engine and materials ... to be able to see it as it would have been was a priceless experience," he said.

The other two planes, a B-25 Mitchell mid-range bomber and P-51 Mustang fighter were also on display.

The Collings Foundation's prized Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber was unfortunately absent, owing to recent repairs. While the B-24 is the most-produced American military aircraft of all time, the Collings Foundation's "Witchcraft" is the only flight-capable B-24 remaining.

Two self-described aviation buffs, Jerry Brunelle of Westerly and Gregg Gulino of Stonington, spent the afternoon photographing the aircraft.

"My friend called me last night and said the war birds were coming," said Jerry Brunelle of Westerly.

In previous years, the two said, about a dozen World War II veterans have come to tour the aircraft.

Now, "they are dwindling," Brunelle said. "Maybe we see one or two."

With fewer veterans from World War II around to share stories, Brunelle said, the aircraft are an increasingly rare chance "to bring history to light."

Tours of the aircraft will be held on Tuesday, September 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Wednesday, September 13, from 9 a.m. to noon and cost $15 for adults and $5 for children under the age of 12.

n.lynch@theday.com

Jerry Brunelle, left, and Gregg Gulino examine the bomb bay of a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Jerry Brunelle, left, and Gregg Gulino examine the bomb bay of a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Volunteer Tim Yuhas cleans oil from the right side main landing gear of the Collings Foundation WWII era B-25 Mitchell 'Tondelayo' at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Volunteer Tim Yuhas cleans oil from the right side main landing gear of the Collings Foundation WWII era B-25 Mitchell "Tondelayo" at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-17G Flying Fortress owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-25 Mitchell 'Tondelayo' owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Visitors view a vintage WWII era B-25 Mitchell "Tondelayo" owned and operated by the Collings Foundation on the tarmac at Groton-New London Airport Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The Collings Foundation's WWII era TF-51D Mustang 'Toulouse Nuts' makes a pass over Groton-New London Airport before landing Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
The Collings Foundation's WWII era TF-51D Mustang "Toulouse Nuts" makes a pass over Groton-New London Airport before landing Monday, September 11, 2017. Three aircraft, the B-17, a B-25 Mitchell, and a TF-51 Mustang, will be on display at the airport through noon on Wednesday. Tours of the aircraft are $15 for adults and $5 for children, and free for veterans. Flight experiences are also available on each of the aircraft. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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