Four historic aircraft to visit Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport

jajones1@bradenton.comJanuary 24, 2014 

MANATEE -- A trio of historic World War II airplanes, plus another that predates American combat in the war by more than a decade, will wing it to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport for a stopover next week and aviation buffs couldn't be happier.

First up is a visit Monday through Wednesday by two heavy bombers from the Collings Foundation -- a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and a Consolidated B-24 Liberator -- plus a P-51 Mustang fighter,

The day after the Collings Foundation planes depart, the Experimental Aircraft Association is bringing a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor, which was the first true passenger plane, as well as a cargo plane. The plane is called a tri-motor because it has an air-cooled radial engine on the nose and one on each of its corrugated wings.

The Ford Tri-Motor visit is set for Jan. 30 through Feb. 2.

The three Collings Foundation aircraft have been regular visitors at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in recent years, but local aviation enthusiast and volunteer Tim Hyden never tires of the experience.

"Every year the excitement of the planes returning starts all over again," Hyden said.

All planes will be based at Rectrix Aviation on the north side of the airport at 1234 Clyde Jones Road, near the intersection of Tallevast Road and 15th Street East.

The public is invited to visit, tour or take a flight.

All Collings aircraft will be open for tours and flights from noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday.

Admission for a tour is $12 for adults, $6 for children 12 and younger.

A flight on the B-17 or the B-24 heavy bomber costs $450 a ticket. A half-hour flight on the P-51 Mustang costs $2,200, or $3,200 for a full hour.

Hyden said he could not recall anyone coming up with the money to fly on the sleek P-51, generally considered the best fighter of World War II, during the time it has been visiting the Bradenton-Sarasota area.

World War II veterans are invited to tour through the Collings planes at no charge.

The visit of the Ford Tri-Motor is sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association.

"It is in pristine condition and provides a smooth flight with a window for every passenger to see great views of our local farms, housing developments, and beaches on Longboat Key and Anna Marie Island," said local EAA member Alan Cate in an email. "The throaty rumbling from the three powerful radial engines is nearly one of a kind -- only three Ford Tri-Motor airliners that are still flying."

Ford Tri-Motor hours are 2-5 p.m. Jan. 30, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 31-Feb. 2.

Tickets purchased in advance for flights aboard the Ford Tri-Motor are $70 for adults, walk-up tickets $75 and $50 for children 17 or younger.

For reservations on the B-17, B-24 or P-51, call 800-568-8924.

For reservations for the Ford Tri-Motor, visit flytheford.org or call 800-843-3612.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1

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