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Collings Foundation works to resume passenger flights

The Collings Foundation has resumed its long-running Wings of Freedom tour and hopes to resume passenger flights aboard vintage warbirds in March following a temporary stand-down to address “detailed questions” from the FAA about flight operations following a tragic crash in October.
The Collings Foundation's B-24 Liberator, "Witchcraft," is parked on the ramp at Maryland's Frederick Municipal Airport during a stop on the foundation's 2018 Wings of Freedom tour. Photo by Josh Cochran.

The Wings of Freedom Tour was suspended following a crash in October that killed seven people, including the pilot, co-pilot, and five passengers who had purchased a ride aboard the Boeing B–17G bomber Nine O Nine at a tour stop in Connecticut. Five other passengers and one of the three crewmembers survived. The FAA has since been reviewing the organization’s exemption that allows the group to offer passengers who pay $425 or more a “Living History Flight Experience.” The exemption allows deviation from the standards and rules applied to typical passenger revenue flights, and the proceeds historically covered a significant portion of the expense of operating a fleet of World War II-era military aircraft.

The organization suspended the Wings of Freedom tour following the crash, and later resumed a more limited schedule of airport visits without offering the passenger experience opportunities.

“We have agreed to a temporary stand-down on our LHFE flights as we work with the FAA addressing detailed questions regarding operations,” Collings spokesman Hunter Chaney said in an email. “Our exemption renewal comes up at the end of March. We are hopeful that we will be able to continue by that time.”

The schedule as of February 13 included four upcoming events: Dallas, March 11 to 15; Eden Prairie, Minnesota, in July; Akron, Ohio, in August; and Cape May, New Jersey, in September. The 2019 schedule included more than 50 tour stops.

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