By Chris Stone and Ken Stone
Awaiting the arrival of a B-17 Flying Fortress in Carlsbad, Mark Roach of Encinitas spoke of his grandfather — a tail gunner who in 1943 flew 32 missions in that World War II bomber.
“I’m really honored to be the grandson of someone who fought in that war and our efforts,” Roach said Thursday of retired Staff Sgt. Octavio Huerta, 96, of Encinitas, who recently was awarded the Legion of Honour.
He received France’s highest order of merit at Atria Senior Living from Christophe Lemoine, Los Angeles-based consul general of France.
Roach plans to bring his grandfather, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, to join other World War II veterans sharing their experiences with the public at a Wings of Freedom Tour stop at McClellan-Palomar Airport.
Viewing vintage American warplanes on the ground: $5 for kids under 12, $15 for adults. Flying in a B-17 or B-24 bomber: $450.
Being exposed to World War II aviation history: Priceless.
For the 30th year, the Collings Foundation is flying five legendary WWII aircraft to more than 100 cities around the nation, with stops in Carlsbad and Ramona this coming week.
Story continues below
On Thursday, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator heavy bomber, B-25 Mitchell bomber and P-40 Warhawk and P-51 Mustang fighters landed at McClellan-Palomar.
About 100 people explored the warbirds on a sunny day.
World War II veterans were to fly in with the crews as part of the national tour — where veterans of that war (most in their 90s) get free admission.
(The B-17 and B-24 are open for tours, but visitors should be aware they are tight quarters with steep steps.)
The aircraft will be in Carlsbad with ground and walk-throughs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Sunday and at Ramona Airport the following three days — noon to 5 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday.
For $2,400 a half-hour and $3,400 a full hour, people can get trained, and fly, a North American P-51 Mustang. For $2,200 (half-hour) or $3,200 (hour) in-air training is given in the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk made famous by the “Flying Tigers.”
The tour’s B-17 is one of only nine in flying condition in the United States, organizers said. The B-24J Liberator is the sole remaining example of its type flying in the world.
And the B-25 is best known for being used in the Doolittle raid. The P-51 “Toulouse Nuts” fighter received the prestigious Grand Champion Award for restoration.
In April 2016, the same tour stopped at Gillespie Field in El Cajon — with four planes. (The P-40 Warhawk is this year’s addition.)
The aircraft this year are on the Western Flight ramp at 2210 Palomar Airport Road, Carlsbad.
The tour is a “flying tribute to the flight crews who flew them, the ground crews who maintained them, the workers who built them, the soldiers, sailors and airmen they helped protect; and the citizens and families that share the freedom that they helped preserve,” organizers said.
Said grandson Roach: “I think it is so important for us to remember history and in some cases not repeat history and carry the stories through. What a better way to do it than seeing it firsthand, hearing the sounds of the engines and seeing the planes?”
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: