BEVERLY — After being closed for 72 hours due to a rehabilitation project on Runway 16/34, the Beverly Regional Airport reopened in time to welcome five World War II vintage planes for the public to explore this weekend.
In honor of local WWII veterans, the Collings Foundation’s ‘Wings of Freedom Tours’ is scheduled to bring two bomber and three fighter aircraft, which were flown between 1942 and 1945, to Beverly Regional Airport from Sept. 13 to 15.
“The event goes along with the history of the airport,” said Beverly Regional Airport Manager Gloria Bouillon. “After the Second World War, the airport was given back from the military to the city of Beverly.”
Bouillon pulled out a clip from the Beverly Evening Times dating back to 1941. The article explains the re-dedication of the airport and a photograph of the 4,000-foot paved runway.
“It is really cool that what was used from the past we are still seeing be used today,” said Bouillon.
The runway today is 5,001 feet by 100 feet wide. The last time that the airport saw construction of this caliber was more than 20 years ago. The newly repaved runway officially reopened on Sept. 11. The $1.46 million rehab project was completed in less than 72 hours earlier this week.
"The fact that we were able to get this work done and host this event is really exciting," said Bouillon.
The aircraft expected for the weekend event include WWII Vintage B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine,” B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft,” B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo” bombers, P-51 Mustang “Toulouse Nuts” and P-40 Warhawk “Jaws” fighters.
According to the Foundation, the aircraft were significant during the war because of the ability to sustain damage and still accomplish their mission. These fighters and bombers were not only able to withstand enemy fire and sub-zero temperatures, but also save countless crews.
"It is just a great historical achievement that we are going to have this at our hometown airport," said Paul Brean of the Airport Commission. "We have had the Collings Foundation in the past and we think that it has been a successful program."
Although Beverly’s airport has only hosted this event a handful of times, the Collings Foundation has been providing this experience around the United States for 30 years.
The Collings Foundation is a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to organizing “living history” events that allows people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation. The aircraft that will be displayed on Friday are owned by the Foundation.
“For us, the event is exciting, it is engaging,” said Bouillon. “You get to see all the families and community members be able to participate and show interest in aviation and planes."
During the three-day event, people will have the opportunity to learn about U.S. aviation history as they explore the authentically restored interiors of the B-17 and B-24 and take a 30-minute flight aboard one of the rare aircraft.
The planes are scheduled to arrive at the airport at 2 p.m at the east ramp, L.P. Henderson Way. As Friday’s event will be the first of four stops for the Wings of Freedom Tour in Massachusetts, the five vintage aircraft will also be flown to Martha’s Vineyard, Plymouth, and Worcester before the end of the month.
"I'm hoping to get a ride in one of these war crafts," Bouillon laughed, looking out at the newly paved runway.
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-338-2527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.