They are the planes that saved civilization.  They carried the greatest generation to war, and to victory.

And this weekend you can step back in time, to an era when young men raised their hands and volunteered to save the world.

As they bank over the field, it’s difficult not to think back, to other fields, and a time when the world was in peril.

They are beautiful but deadly.  Made of aluminum and American ingenuity, the B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator were the bludgeon used to bring the Third Reich and Imperial Japan to their knees.

And the plane that finally provided the long range escort the bombers needed, the P-51 Mustang.

The Wings of Freedom tour is flying across the country sponsored by the Collings Foundation, and this weekend, they are in Casper.

The B-17 Flying Fortress bore the bulk of 8th Air Force missions over German occupied Europe.

There are few creations of technology as majestic as a 4-engine heavy bomber in flight. They are little more than bits of aluminum, fabric, 72 pistons, and a dozen propeller blades all moving through the sky in loose formation.

This Fortress, a B-17G named the Nine-O-Nine, touched down at Casper-Natrona County International Airport Monday morning, and the press got a tour, and then, a ride on the iconic warbird.

There are only about a dozen B-17’s in flying condition, and ironically, none of these planes actually saw combat, coming off the line late in the war.

But no matter. When you hear the deafening sound of four, 1200 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines roaring in your ear, you are transported back in time.

Until the invasion of Europe, these were the only Americans fighting in Europe, flying missions over Germany… long, loud, dangerous flights where gunners were always on alert for fighters, and the anti-aircraft fire known as flak.

Then there’s the B-24 Liberator, the plane flown by men like Jimmy Stewart, Lloyd Bentson and George McGovern, which actually carried a heavier bomb load than the B-17, but was not considered as rugged.

Of the B-24’s, this plane, Witchcraft, and one other are the only flying examples left in the world.

If you take a flight, you’ll find that these bombers are like a time machine…taking you back to missions over Germany, long, loud, dangerous flight, and if nature called, there was the ultimate in luxury lavatories.

And then, all too soon, it is over as our 23-tons of living history sets down on the runway at Casper-Natrona International Airport.

And joining the heavies is the premier medium bomber of the war, the B-25 Mitchell, ironically, manufactured by the same company that built the Mustang, North American Aviation.

The Mitchell saw service in all theaters of the war and was made most famous as the plane flown by General Jimmy Doolittle and his raiders on the first bombing mission over Tokyo.

The planes will be here for ground tours and flights through Friday at Atlantic Aviation on the airport grounds.

It’s a chance to touch, smell, hear and feel history. And for some, to return to a time when the world hung in the balance.

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