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Keep History Flying: Warbirds In The Wake Of The B-17 Crash

This week, a World War II-era B-17 tragically crashed in Connecticut. Words fall short in trying to provide comfort to the loved ones of those departed. Prayers are extended for them and those recovering from their wounds.

As we absorb what happened, it is important to understand the context behind the flight. Across America, a select number of educational organizations have restored historic military aircraft to flying condition to honor veterans, serve as educational tools, and inspire future generations. These are not “fly by night” operations as some in the media have conjectured. These organizations are comprised of incredibly talented individuals subject to Federal Aviation Administration standards and oversight specifically formulated for this class of vintage aircraft. These rules cover the aircraft restoration process, ongoing maintenance, pilot qualifications and flight operations.

These aircraft serve as traveling museums, able to visit communities across America and engage people who are not able to journey to the National Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, or the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. Attendees include school groups, veterans, and the general public. Several U.S. presidents have even stopped to visit with these veteran warbirds to say, “thank you.”

These historic aircraft have assumed an increased significance to our nation and our public, given airpower’s greatly diminished presence across America. Ever since the end of the Cold War, it has been more difficult for American citizens to realize the impact of airpower. From an Air Force perspective, the end of the Cold War saw its total size decline by over 30 percent; its total number of fighter aircraft cut by almost 50 percent; total number of bombers cut by over 70 percent; numerous bases close; and the aerospace industrial complex consolidated from dozens of companies into less than a handful of major aircraft production facilities. Put simply, airpower’s longtime grassroots presence is fading away. This has had a deleterious effect upon our veterans and the public’s understanding of the value of airpower to the nation—past and present.  


American Airmen have repeatedly put their lives on the line to defend our nation. It is important to honor the sacrifices in dedication to duty and service by the Airmen who made them.

That is precisely why the Collings Foundation, the organization which owned and operated the B-17 that crashed, dedicate so much time, energy, money, and heart to this undertaking. It is a mission fundamentally centering around service—to veterans, younger generations, and the public at large. It comes down to honoring and educating about what it means to be an American warrior aviator.

Read entire article at Forbes