Vintage Aviation Museum Prepares to Take Wing


Restoration work being preformed on B-17E “Desert Rat”

There is a new Warbird museum on the block.  The Vintage Aviation Museum may be young in age but not in ambition.  Sean O’Brien is the founder and president of the Vintage Aviation Museum.  Mr. O’Brien has worked in multiple museums, including flying on tour with a B-17.  These experiences have not only prepared him to start his own museum but have also been the driving force behind the new opening.  “I got to a point where I realized that  in order to fulfill my passion and vision for vintage aircraft, warbirds, and all of the history that surrounds them I needed to start my own museum” says Mr. O’Brien. He began planning the Vintage Aviation Museum in 2014, and launched it in January 2016.  Since opening the doors, Mr. O’Brien says, “…the response has been overwhelming”.  

The Vintage Aviation Museum is busy at work.  The museum will plans to move its headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah hopefully in 2017 when its museum facilities are completed.  The new facility will include state-of -art restoration facilities and museum spaces to be used for educational purposes.


B-17E 41-2595 “Desert Rat”

The Vintage Aviation Museum joined forces with the Desert Rat B-17E Restoration Team, that has been working to restore B-17E 41-2595 since it was discovered in Maine decaying in a scrapyard in the 1980’s.  Mr. O’Brien has been following the B-17Es progress for a number of years and when he was in a position to help, decided to join forces with the Desert Rat team to complete the restoration sooner.  The time table for the B-17E Desert Rat’s completion is 3 to 5 years, however it is dependent on funding.  When the VAM facilities are completed in 2017, part of Desert Rat will be moved to Salt Lake City, Utah for restoration, while the remainder of the plane will stay in Marengo, Illinois to be completed.  Once Desert Rat’s restoration is completed, the entire airframe will be transported to Salt Lake City for final assembly.  After completion “Desert Rat” will be on tour across the United States as a flying museum and will be based out of Salt Lake City, Utah.


Boeing B-17C Flying Fortress

In addition, the Vintage Aviation Museum and Desert Rat teams are joining forces to build an airworthy B-17C.   The B-17C build is in its early stages, parts are beginning to be collected.  The pace will not increase on the B-17C build until either the museum’s volunteer force increases or Desert Rat is returned back to flying condition.  Although building a B-17 can be done more quickly than restoring one, the thousands of rivets incorporated into the airframe make construction time consuming.  Once the B-17C is completed it will join B-17E “Desert Rat” on tour.

Mr. O’Brien thinks that flying these aircraft is necessary, “…so that people can see them operate in their natural element”.  VAM restoration and museum facilities will be open to the public to be used as an educational tool and share the stories behind their planes.  Mr. O’Brien believes, “It’s not just about the planes, it is also about the factory workers, the people that gave up their time to help out…” with the war effort.  The Vintage Aviation Museum wants to give people the opportunity to learn history first hand from the veterans that experienced it.


Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress

“We try to do things where we are a little outside of the box, we don’t want to be like everyone else…we want to create our own path… and be able to reach people not just local to the museum but across the country”, says museum president Mr. O’Brien.  An example of this being the “Night With Dick Cole” event that the museum hosted.  Unlike other events, VAM kept the event to a group of 100 people in order to allow people to personally interact with Mr. Cole, the last surviving Dolittle Raider and have their questions answered from a man who is walking and talking history.

Keep your eyes open for the Vintage Aviation Museum’s future projects, which include:

PV2 Harpoon D-Day C-47 F9F Panther
BT-13 Valiant A-26 Invader B-25D Mitchell
TBF Avenger

Interested in donating to or volunteering to  restore the B-17C and B-17E “Desert Rat” to flying condition? Contact the Vintage Aviation Museum and check out their Facebook Page

Photo Credit:

-Vintage Aviation Museum

-Desert Rat Restoration Team


Collings Foundation Welcomes New TF-51 Mustang

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The Collings Foundation welcomed this TF-51D  named “Toulouse Nuts” back to the skies over Florida with the the help of American Aero Services in New Symrna Beach.  “Toulouse Nuts” will be joining the Wings of Freedom Tour and will be available for rides across the U.S.  For more information about the restoration process check out: “Whats new at the Collings Foundation”

Photo Credit: Mike Ligosh

The Last Liberator Film Project

b-24cf“This is not simply the story of the B-24 Liberator, but the story of the men and women who designed, built, maintained and flew it. If is the story of a Nation united, allies focused and determined. It is the story of thousands of individuals who played their parts in defeating an enemy.  Its story is but one powerful symbol that illustrates the story of victory”

“The Collings Foundation, a non-profit, Educational Foundation (501c-3) has recovered and restored many of the true landmark aircraft that built the world aviation history, in order to meet its mission of organizing and supporting living history events that enable Americans to learn more about their heritage through direct participation.

Included in their collection is the world’s only flying B-24J , which continues soaring through its native skies as part of the annual Wings of Freedom Tour with its sister ship, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

Now, with a mission of capturing the recollections of the real people behind the machines, the Collings Foundation, in conjunction with Inversion Films and Inland Sea Productions is proud to present The Last Liberator a one-of-a-kind story of World War II as told through the eyes of veterans who were responsible for building and flying the Liberator. The foundation and the producers are determined to capture their story in their own words and marry those memories to the most powerful medium on the planet, the giant screen theater, creating a legacy that will engage all Americans in remembering, learning and honoring.  It will indelibly sear their lessons in the archives of American heroism.

When executed properly, with accuracy and authenticity as the overriding mission, the marriage of the highest caliber information with the state-of the art tools of entertainment deliver a powerful and relevant tool in education. The Last Liberator is an edutainment program, designed to reach today’s audiences on multiple levels, many times, in an accurate and lasting manner. It will be a catalyst for ongoing learning and leave an indelible mark on the viewer.”

To help the make this project successful, make a tax deductible donation to the Collings Foundation  and for more information visit The Last Liberator.

Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

Information Credit: Collings Foundation/ The Last Liberator

A Terror of the Pacific, Hellcat Pilot Lt. Bill Gorden


Lt. Bill Gorden in his Navy dress whites. Photo Credit: MAAM

Many of us remember where we were when we heard that the World Trade Center Towers fell in Manhattan. The Attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was a similar event for the Americans who came to be known as the Greatest Generation. Bill Gorden was 18 years old when he heard President Roosevelt announce to the nation, that the United States had been attacked for the first time since the War of 1812. Mr. Gorden knew that, being of military age, he had two options; to wait for the draft; or, to enlist in the service. He chose the Navy Air Corps, and was taken into training by the Navy in February of 1942. He was sent to a school in Worcester, Ohio, where he spent six weeks learning basic navy skills such as communicating with ships. He did not receive a uniform until almost three weeks into his training, due to a shortage at the time.


USS Hancock Photo Credit: MAAM

After Basics school, Mr. Gorden was accepted into training as a Naval aviator and began his flying in the Navy at the controls of Piper Cubs and Aeroncas while he was stationed in Kalamazoo for about four weeks. Following his first taste of flying he was transferred to Iowa where he went through preflight and primary flight school flying Navy Stearmans. Upon completion of this training, he was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi where he flew the North American SNJ, the Navy version of the famous T-6 Texan. While at Corpus Christi, the main focuses were formation flying, communications with flags from the cockpit, and bombing and shooting practice. Mr. Gorden received his instrument training in the SNJ in Beeville, Texas. After completing his training, he received his wings at Corpus Christi, and was ready to take the controls of a frontline fighter. He picked up his F6F Hellcat in Daytona Beach, Florida. Mr. Gorden flew his Hellcat for about three weeks, and practiced the skills necessary to land on an aircraft carrier on land. Shortly after he successfully made his first trap on an aircraft carrier in his Hellcat. With some time off to briefly visit his family in Detroit, he received orders to report to San Diego and was assigned to squadron VF-7.


An F6F Hellcat on final approach to the USS Hancock CV-19 in 1944 Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Upon shipping out aboard the U.S.S. Hancock, CV-19, and Essex Class Aircraft Carrier, Mr. Gorden spent the last 6 months of the war flying strafing, escort, and bombing missions in the Philippines, Okinawa, and Japan. The tactic that they used was to pursue Japanese planes and do their best to get home themselves. Mr. Gorden had countless close calls and had hits on his aircraft, but was never shot down during his time in the Pacific Theater. At the conclusion of the war, Mr. Gorden left the Navy, and rejoined and was a part of the Navy Reserves as a “Weekend Warrior” shortly after. In the reserves he flew Hellcats on the weekend for four years where he and his squadron worked on bombing, strafing and formation flying. When Mr. Gorden moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, he was forced to resign from his squadron at the rank of Lieutenant. Shortly after his retirement, The United States became embroiled in Korea. He had a family to raise but he seriously considered signing up again before his squadron, VF-7 shipped out to Korea. Mr. Gorden has not taken the controls of an aircraft since.

VF-7 Hellcat 7644-1

A Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat from VF-7 making and emergency landing after takeoff from the USS Hancock on July 6, 1944 Photo Credit:

Mr. Gorden is one of the finest examples of the Greatest Generation, who answered his country’s call in one of its greatest times of need. He fought against the Japanese during their most vicious point in the War as they were being pushed back to mainland Japan. Mr. Gorden is a true American hero. Upon questioning him about whether or not he and his squadron mates knew that they were a part of history , he stated, “you just wanted to keep someone from killing you (and just) think about what you needed to do”. The heroes response…



Interview and Article By: Thomas Reilly

Doc’s Kickstarter Campaign A Success

100docDoc’s Friends have announced that they have secured the necessary funding to complete their newly restored B-29’s flight testing.  As of October 22, 2015 over $140,000 out of the necessary $137,500 for flight testing has been pledged by almost 800 backers on Kickstarter.  With over $60,000 pledged in two days.  Doc’s Friends expressed their thanks to their supporters by saying “We DID IT: Words cannot express the excitement and gratitude felt by our team right now.”  With a week still remaining, all pledges over the goal will go towards maintaining Doc as a flying museum. Visit: Doc’s website and Facebook page for more information

Photo Credit: Doc’s Friends

The Collings Foundation Needs Your Help!


From Bottom to Top: The Collings Foundation’s B-24J Liberator, B-17G Flying Fortress and ultra rare TP-51C Mustang flying in tight formation. Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

“Based in Stow, Massachusetts, the Collings Foundation (501c3) is recognized internationally for the preservation, exhibition and operation of unique and rare historic aircraft and organizing educational living history events. The Stow museum features an incredible collection of over 75 classic automobiles, historic aircraft, tanks, military artifacts and machines.

We are in the process of expanding the facility to build the American Heritage Museum. This will be a state-of-the-art museum that will feature America’s history in the periods of WWI, WWII, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War and Gulf War. Military artifacts will be presented in a museum environment that is both educational and captivating.


The Race of the Century hosted at the Collings Foundation’s HQ in Stow, Massachusetts. Photo Credit: Collings Foundation

Over the last two years we have been dealing with the mind numbing process of getting the approvals needed through the Stow boards. Apparently, the Planning Board of Stow are the only ones who can dictate what is considered educational. After two years of Planning Board meetings, the board has determined that museums are not educational. The Collings Foundation had another meeting with the Stow Planning Board Wednesday, July 29th. In a three to two vote the Planning Board made the determination that the Collings Foundation’s living history events, staff and docent tours, preservation and exhibition of historical artifacts and aircraft, school tours, STEM programs, Veteran round-table discussions, and so on – are not educational. Sorry to say, we are not making this up. More so, two out of the three on the Planning Board of Stow, Massachusetts who say our programs are not educational and mere “entertainment” – have never attended a living history event or public tour at the Collings Foundation’s museum! Wow….

Most recently, the building inspector usurped the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Aeronautics Commission in regulating aviation. After 37 years of continuous flying from our Stow property, the Stow Building issued a cease and desist order against the Foundation on March 26, 2015 prohibiting take-offs and landings.

Roughly 95% of the Collings Foundation’s flight operations happen during our Open House / Living History events that total six days of the year. People from Stow and all over New England have enjoyed the fantastic experience of flying in these aircraft for years.

We operate in compliance with all FAA regulations and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission has long approved our airfield. The Aeronautics Commission, in fact, notified the authorities in Stow on May 5, 2015 that the bylaw the Building Commissioner relied upon for his actions was “invalid and unenforceable.” (I have the letter if you want to see it)

Litigation that concluded in 2004 in Middlesex Superior Court confirmed that our operations were in compliance with the bylaws. The Town of Stow’s Zoning Board of Appeals was a party to that action, and it defended, at considerable taxpayer expense, the Collings Foundation’s activities as being in compliance with the bylaws.

Ironically, the very same Town Council who then defended our airfield use is now taking, in the absence of any changed circumstances, but in the face of the same considerable expense, the contrary position that our activities violate the bylaw. No, you can’t make this stuff up!!

Our second living history event called Race of the Century happened on July 25th and 26th. A major part of this event is the exhibition of one of the oldest flying aircraft in the United States – a 1909 Bleriot. National Geographic TV had planned to document this incredible feat of early aviation. After all these years, it is a terrible shame that we could not fly this amazing machine for all to see.

This is just a sampling of the nefarious actions the Stow boards have created in their “selective” governance. We can’t begin to express our most deep disappointment in the town’s elected and appointed officials. What the heck is happening with this town? Is this the sign of things to come once our WWII Veterans are gone? According to the Stow Planning Board, anything that should be considered educational must have Planning Board approved curriculum and testing at the end.

Such a sad state of affairs. Are you as upset as we are with this? Contact the officials in the town of Stow and let them know what you think. As always, it is the people who support educational foundations like the Collings Foundation that make a difference.


The Collings Foundation’s North American TP-51C Mustang, a fully dual controlled version of the rare “razorback” P-51. Photo Credit: Fence Check

Board of Selectman: 978.897.4515

Town Administrator: 978.897.2927

Building commissioner: 978-897-2193

Zoning Board of Appeals: 978.897.8780

Any questions? Call me directly.

Hunter Chaney
Director of Marketing
Collings Foundation

Photo Credit:

Collings Foundation

Fence Check