KEARNEY — Flying antique aircraft requires special knowledge and lots of extra maintenance.
“Today we have three planes because the scheduled maintenance popped up earlier than expected with the other two and we had to leave them in Fort Collins,” said Demi Bamber, flight coordinator with the Wings of Freedom Tour. “We think the P-40 Warhawk will be fixed on Tuesday (today) and hopefully be here by Wednesday.”
Bamber spoke at a hangar at the Kearney airport where vintage World War II aircraft continued on display. Presented by the Colling’s Foundation, the tour originally featured five planes — three bombers and two fighters.
“There are a lot of factors that go into play with maintenance,” Bamber said. “We could go a month without it or we could have a bunch of maintenance in just a few days. That’s the way these old planes are. We don’t take anybody up and fly them at all until the planes are perfect.”
Sign up for Kearney Hub daily news updates
Want to read more local content like this? Subscribe to the Kearney Hub's daily headlines newsletter.
Tours of the three planes — the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine,” the B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” and the P-25 Mustang “Betty Jane” — continue at the airport through Wednesday. General admission to tour the planes is $15 or $5 for ages 12 and younger.
Flights in the bombers are available starting at $400 per person.
“We fly these planes very conservatively,” Bamber said. “Even on a day like today, if it’s too hot, we don’t book extra flights. We respect the weather. We’re very good to these planes. The maintenance comes up depending on how often the planes are flown.”
Some of the servicing depends on FFA regulations. The flight crews take extra care to make sure the planes operate properly. Bamber also recognizes the heritage of the aircraft. The B-24 Liberator on the Wings of Freedom Tour is the last of those planes still able to fly.
For Bamber, seeing the expressions of the people as they step back onto the ground after a flight makes her work worthwhile.
“To be honest with you, the planes are cool but the people are amazing,” she said. “Every time a flight comes back, I watch all the faces getting off and that helps me get through such a crazy schedule. We do this 300 days a year, non-stop. Every time I see a transformation happen — a veteran, a couple, a young boy who has been curious about aviation — they all get off that plane in awe, feeling a deeper gratitude for veterans. It does something to people, something very special. That amazes me the most.”
Stick time in the P-51 Mustang starts at $2,400. For more information call 800-568-8924.