We are fortunate that there are dedicated men and women who work very hard to keep these old birds flying, helping us to honor the memories of those who went to war in them. And so, a few words about each of these wonderful machines and about their old namesakes...
Today's airplane, s/n 44-83575, was license-built by Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, CA and was accepted by the USAAF on 7 April 1945 making her 68 years old. Born too late to see combat, she served as an air/sea rescue aircraft and as a transport. Sold into civilian life, she worked for two decades as a fire-fighting aircraft and then was restored to wartime configuration. A serious accident led to a second restoration, but since then she's logged over 1,200 tour stops. Since the unfortunate loss of "Liberty Belle" in 2011, "Nine O Nine" is one of only ten airworthy B-17's in the world.
The airplane we see today is B-24J s/n 44-44052. She was delivered from the Consolidated Aircraft Company's Fort Worth, Texas plant in August 1944, 69 years ago. In October of 1944, she was transferred to the Royal Air Force and saw combat in the Pacific Theater. At war's end, the aircraft was abandoned in Khanpur, India, never expected to fly again. However, in 1948 the Indian Air Force succeeded in restoring 36 B-24's, including this one, to operational status and thereby hangs a tale.
These B-24's served the IAF until 1968 and then were abandoned. 44-44052 spent 13 years in derelict condition until she was discovered by a collector, shipped to England and ultimately acquired and restored by the Collings Foundation. Today she is the only airworthy B-24J and one of only two flying B-24's (the other is a B-24A).
After many years, significant parts of the airframe were recovered by a professional aircraft restorer including the data plate. This allowed the resurrection of 42-103293. When the aircraft was rebuilt in 2002 and 2003 it was completed as a 2 seat version, a TP-51C. This field modification added a second seat with flight controls and instrumentation for training purposes. (At least 5 TP-51Cs were built during WWII for training and VIP transport.)
This Mustang is painted as Col. Charles M. McCorkle's "Betty Jane", that he flew as commander of the 31st Fighter Group in the Mediterranean Theater. Col. McCorkle had 11 confirmed kills, six in the Mustang. After the war, he rose to the rank of Major General, retiring in 1966. He went West in 2009.