Aviation buffs rejoice: You'll have the chance to climb inside rare World War II-era bomber and fighter aircraft next week.

The national Wings of Freedom Tour is coming to York Airport to educate people about World War II and honor its aging veterans.

As part of a 110-city nationwide tour, the Collings Foundation will fly a WWII-era Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, Consolidated B-24 Liberator and North American P-51 Mustang into the York Airport in Jackson Township on Monday and stay until Wednesday.

The exhibit is interactive and encourages attendees to get a first-hand look at the what pilots went through, said Hunter Chaney, spokesman for the Massachusetts-based foundation, which has hosted the tours for 24 years.

"To read about World War II history is something you might remember, but to experience something like the Wings of Freedom Tour - that makes a lasting impression on folks," he said.

The tour: To get a feel for how rare these planes are, consider that the B-17 is one of eight in flying condition in the country - and the B-24 and P-51 models are the only ones of their kind in the world, Chaney said. Although they were mass-produced during the war, most were smelted down to make toasters and cars during the post-war economic boon, he said.

"This is the real thing," Chaney said. "What you see is straight out of 1945."

When teaching about "the worst conflict in human history," there's a challenge with how to engage people and build a sense of appreciation with what happened, he said. Touring the aircraft does the trick, he said.

"When folks come out and see these planes, it is really like literally walking into a time machine," Chaney said.

'A flying memorial': With the partial government shutdown frustrating Americans, remembering the staggering losses during the war puts things in perspective, he said.

"We really need to come together as a country, and one of the things that really helps do that is to remember times like when we came together during World War II," Chaney said.

Today, we're used to living a life of air conditioning, pressurized cabins and cushioned seats. Back then was different, Chaney said.

"It was the equivalent of flying to Mars with a mask and snorkel on," he said.

Pilots flew for hours on end, always aware of the enemy and testing their psyches, he said. Some of those veterans are still alive, but their numbers are dropping fast, Chaney said.

"Every stop, typically we see World War II veterans, but it won't be long before we won't see any," he said.

Each World War II vet has a "certain mojo": a gleam in his eye that shows a certain level of pride and self-perseverance, Chaney said.

And the tour is a way to experience and honor their history in an interactive and authentic way, Chaney said.

"Come out and see the planes while you can," he said. "'Cause nothing lasts forever."

- Reach Mollie Durkin at mdurkin@yorkdispatch.com.

Tour and fly WWII-era planes

The national Wings of Freedom Tour, a historical exhibit honoring World War II veterans and the era's aircraft, comes to York Airport in Jackson Township next week.

Hours for ground tours and display are noon to 5 p.m. Monday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday. Tours inside the aircraft are $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12. World War II vets are welcome to tour at no cost.

Fly it yourself: Visitors may get strapped into the aircraft and have their own chance to fly during a flight-training session. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $425 per person. P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half-hour and $3,200 for a full hour. For reservations and information on flight experiences, call 800-568-8924.