In aviation parlance, a "walkaround" is what a pilot does before a flight: he literally "walks around" his aircraft, visually checking all systems: engine, gear, control surfaces, gas, oil, and the general condition of the plane. Doing so is indispensable: when you're cruising at 5,000 feet AGL, it's not easy to pull over if you've got engine trouble... it's best to find and correct those problems while you're still safely on the ground. A walkaround, properly done, results in the discovery of small problems that can become life-threatening in the air.

I spent some time with The Collings Foundation's "Wings of Freedom" tour, helping maintain and crew three classic warbirds: a beautiful P-51C "Mustang" called Betty Jane, a sleek B-17G "Flying Fortress" named Ol' 909, and the last flying B-24 "Liberator" styled Witchcraft.

It was quite an amazing experience and I took advantage of the good natured pilots of these three fine birds to get an exclusive guided tour, which I'm now pleased to share with you!

My thanks to The Collings Foundation, the pilots, and other members of the crew who accompany these warbirds on their yearly tour around America. They're almost all volunteers and everyone puts in long, hard days in the hot sun, uprooting and moving the entire circus every three days to a new location. Yet they keep their sense of humor, have a good camaraderie, and serve both the public and the Foundation ably. It was a pleasure and a privilege to join them for a few days.

I encourage you to do the same!


THE goods

the gist