For Immediate Release
The Collings Foundation – Wings of Freedom Tour
Phone 978-562-9182
Fax 978-568-8231
email- with questions, comments or need further information.
The Wings of Freedom Tour of the WWII Vintage Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress,
Consolidated B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell and North American P-51 Mustang
Announce Unique Display in Santa Maria at Santa Maria Public Airport
from May 16 to May 18
In honor of our WWII Veterans – The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour Brings Extremely Rare Bomber and
Fighter Aircraft for Local Living History Display as Part of 110-city Nationwide Tour
WHAT: Participating in the Collings Foundation’s WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine”
WWII Heavy Bomber, Consolidated B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft” WWII Heavy Bomber, B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo” Mid Size Bomber,
and P-51 Mustang fighter, will fly into Santa Maria Public Airport in Santa Maria, CA for a visit from May 16 to May 18. This is a
rare opportunity to visit, explore, and learn more about these unique and rare treasures of aviation history. The B-17 is one of only
8 in flying condition in the United States, the B-24J and Full Dual Control P-51 C Mustang are the sole remaining examples of their
type flying in the World. The B-25 is best known for being used in the daring Doolittle raid. Visitors are invited to explore the
aircraft inside and out – $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 is requested for access to up-close viewing and tours
through the inside of the aircraft. Discounted rates for school groups. Visitors may also experience the once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to actually take a 30-minute flight aboard these rare aircraft. Flights on either the B-17 or B-24 are $450 per person.
Get some “stick time” in the world’s greatest fighter! P-51 flights are $2,200 for a half hour and $3,200 for a full hour. B-25 flights
are $400 per person. For reservations and information on flight experiences call 800-568-8924.
WHERE: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR will be on display at Santa Maria Public Airport in Santa Maria, located at Ramp
behind Radisson Hotel – Airpark Dr.
WHEN: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR will arrive at Santa Maria Public Airport at 12:00 PM on May 16 and will be on display
at the ramp behind the Radisson Hotel at Santa Maria Public Airport until the aircraft departs May 18 after 12:00 PM. Hours of
ground tours and display are: 12:00 PM through 5:00 PM on Monday, May 16; 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 17; 9:00
AM through 12:00 PM on Wednesday, May 18. The 30-minute flight experiences are normally scheduled before and after the
ground tour times above.
WHO: The Collings Foundation is a 501 c3 non-profit educational foundation devoted to organizing “living history” events that
allows people to learn more about their heritage and history through direct participation. The Nationwide WINGS OF FREEDOM
TOUR is celebrating its 27th year and visits an average of 110 cities in over 35 states annually. Since its start, tens of millions of
people have seen the B-1 7, B-24 & P-51 display at locations everywhere. The WINGS OF FREEDOM tour is one of the most
extraordinary and unique interactive traveling historical displays of its kind.
WHY: The WINGS OF FREEDOM TOUR travels the nation as 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
fam ilies that share the freedom that they helped preserve. The B-17, B-25 & B-24 were the backbone of the American effort during
the war from 1942 to 1945 and were famous for their ability to sustain damage and still accomplish the mission. Despite the risks
of anti-aircraft fire, attacking enemy fighters, and the harrowing environment of sub-zero temperatures, many B-17s and B-24s
safely brought their crews home. The P-51 Mustang was affectionately known as the bombers “Little Friend” – saving countless
crews from attacking axis fighters. After the war, many aircraft were scrapped for their raw aluminum to rebuild a nation in postwar
prosperity and therefore very few were spared. The rarity of the B-17, B-25, B-24 & P-51 – and their importance to telling the
story of WWII is why the Collings Foundation continues to fly and display the aircraft nationwide. At each location we encourage
local veterans and their families to visit and share their experiences and stories with the public. For aviation enthusiasts, the tour
provides opportunity for the museum to come to the visitor and not the other way around! Visitors can find out more by visiting our
website at
For further information e-mail Hunter Chaney, Director of Marketing: or 800-568-8924.

Vintage aircraft large and small soared above the crowd gathered at the Santa Maria Public Airport as the two-day Thunder Over the Valley air show wrapped up Sunday afternoon.

Aircraft aficionados mingled with just plain curious individuals and families who gathered to check out biplanes, stunt aircraft, trainers from World War II and others that were parked on the airport tarmac.

Radio-controlled model aircraft, ranging from only about a foot long up to a B17G Flying Fortress several feet long, were a big hit, especially with the kids.

Aircraft owners appeared more than happy to talk about their planes, explaining everything from handling characteristics and records set to their specific impact on the nation and aviation in general.

This year’s air show was dedicated to America’s wounded warriors and unique veterans groups from the Santa Maria Valley.  Special honorees this year included the 442nd Infantry Regiment Nisei, Filipino Guerillas and Scouts, Women Air Service Pilots, also known as WASPs, and Tuskegee Airmen.

In addition, all uniformed military personnel and their families were admitted to the show free of charge.

8/24/15 Staff Report Santa Maria Times


Planes, Both Radio-Controlled and Manned, Put On A Show Over Santa Maria Public Airport

The Thunder Over the Valley airshow brought out not only full-size airplanes, but smaller, radio-controlled crafts as well.

The annual airshow, hosted by the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, kicked off Saturday morning with demonstration flights of the radio-controlled planes.

Some of the ground-based pilots of the planes fly real planes as well.

“My big plane is over there across the way,” said Steve DeMott, motioning towards the hangars at the Santa Maria Public Airport. DeMott, president of GREKA Refining Company, flew one of his many radio-controlled planes, a bright-orange replica of a late 1930s Rearwin Speedster. “This is like a Rearwin Speedster on steroids,” DeMott said. “It’s got like 400 percent more power than it needs. A 50-cubic-centimeter two-cycle engine makes about 3.5 horsepower for the plane. “We’ve clocked this thing at 100 miles per hour,” DeMott said.

For Mike Leggett of Morgan Hill, in Northern California, flying radio-controlled aircraft is more than a hobby. His painstakingly-detailed one-ninth scale model of a B17G Flying Fortress heavy bomber is a flying tribute to his father. “This is a replica of the one my dad was shot down in in World War II,” Leggett said. His father, 2nd Lt. Elmer Leggett, was the bombardier on the plane, which was strafed by German fighter aircraft as it returned from bombing a Berlin railway station in 1944. Pause

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  • ChaptersAmong the full-size planes that took to the skies were four military training planes from the War Birds West Air Museum in El Cajon and a Lockheed T-33 flown by Gregory Colyer of the Bay Area-based Ace Maker Air Shows.8/22/15  •  Kyle Harding  Santa Maria Times
  • Thunder Over the Valley continues today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The co-pilot of the plane died, while the eight other crew members survived the war in a POW camp. The elder Leggett died in 2004. Mike Leggett built the replica from scratch. The initial build took more than three years, and he adds detail every year. “You can spend a lot of money or a lot of effort,” he said. “I, in general, spend a lot of effort.”

This year’s Thunder Over The Valley airshow will honor wounded warriors and unique groups of veterans from the Santa Maria Valley.

The event, which will be held at the Santa Maria Public Airport, will run Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Special honorees will include 442nd Infantry Regiment Nisei, Filipino Guerillas and Scouts, Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) and Tuskegee Airmen. 

The annual airshow is put on by the Santa Maria Museum of Flight. The museum is located on the grounds of what was previously the Santa Maria Army Air Field and was the base for the first jet fighter squadron in the Army Air Force, flying the Bell P-59 aircraft during World War II.

Since its inception, the event has attracted some 7,000 to 8,000 visitors each year for more than 25 years, according to officials. Attendees can expect to see World War II planes, displays or aerobatics, and this year the main attraction will be demonstrations of large scale radio-controlled aircraft.

Michael Geddry, CEO for the museum and airshow event director, said that while attendees will enjoy the show, it’s also important to stop and think about why they’re all there.

“The whole theme of the show is to honor wounded warriors,” Geddry said. “It gives us the time to get away from the hustle and bustle of life and think about how very fortunate we are to have the freedom that we do thanks to these men and women that have served.”

Admission for uniformed personnel and their families is free. Admission is $10 for adults, $3 for children ages 7 to 12 or $25 for a family of four. Children 6 and younger and members of the military are admitted free of charge.

For more information about the event or the Santa Maria Museum of Flight, visit

8/20/15   Ryan Cooley  Santa Maria Times

After initially determining a budget last year, the Santa Maria City Council voted to increase the city’s total operating funds by an additional $7.6 million at its regular Tuesday meeting.

Last year, the council approved two one-year budgets but planned to do a midcycle review. This being the review, the city reassessed operational needs and re-evaluated  state and local economies and decided to increase spending.

Overall, the city’s appropriations went from $150.9 million to $158.5 million, with about 75 percent of the increase going toward the general fund.

One way the city will cover the additional expenses is to borrow from a Local Economy Augmentation Fund (LEAF), which will cover $3.6 million toward the general fund. That will leave the LEAF Fund, which in the 2007-2008 fiscal year was $11.7 million, down to $2.7 million.

A good portion of the increase funds has been determined for previously negotiated salary and benefits enhancement. The city staff will be up to 490 full-time and 81 part-time employees in 2015-16.  The newly approved budget will cover seven new full-time employees, including three new police officers.

Other notable projects to be put into motion under the new budget changes are a $2.5 million dispatch and records system for the Santa Maria Police Department; $100,000 to replace the heaters at the Paul Nelson Aquadic Center; $75,000 to improve the restrooms at Oakley Park; and $103,000 from the city’s Business Attraction Loan Fund to build a monument sign to welcome people to the city.

After the budget changes were presented by City Manager Rick Haydon, the council approved the budget with little discussion.

The council did, however, express particular support on another budgetary concern, and that was whether to put $25,000 toward the reopening of the U.S. Customs office at the Santa Maria Public Airport. The airport used to have such an office from 2006 to 2009, according to a city report, but it closed down due to the Great Recession, poor exposure and the limited number of international flights coming in.

The city cited an improved economy, combined with a request from Windset Farms to make the move to support its employees who fly internationally.

“There are some pretty heavy hitters around that are flying in and out,” said Councilman Bob Orach. “It would behoove us to be the guys that can service them coming in and out of the country, so I’m certainly in full support of that issue.”

Windset Farms wrote in a letter to the city that it would contribute $75,000 annually toward the project.

“Over the next few years, we are intending to expand our operations in a meaningful way” David Wesley, director of projects at Windset Farms, wrote. “Not only have we built a business here in the valley, but many of us have made Santa Maria home. Windset Farms is a frequent user of the airport with regular trips to and from our operations in Canada, Mexico and the United States.”

The office would cost $185,000 annually, and a combination of money coming in from flights, revenue from the office and support from the Airport District would cover the rest of the cost.

“I think this is a good effort and I think $25,000 is good money that will turn a lot of things around in Santa Maria so I’m definitely in favor,” Councilwoman Etta Waterfield said. 

June 16, 2015  Santa Maria Times

Bill Bayliss sees the world in a way few others do: cruising the skies at about 1,500 feet doing around 35 mph.

He is one of the lucky few who get to pilot one of the most enduring symbols of corporate America, the Goodyear Blimp, which celebrated its 90th birthday in the skies above Santa Maria on Wednesday. Goodyear’s first blimp, Pioneer, was christened June 3, 1925. Bayliss said he is a member of a very small fraternity who get to fly slow enough and low enough to enjoy the view.

“The view is definitely one thing that never gets old,” he said as he steered the 190-foot long, 14,000-pound airship over Santa Maria. 

The Spirit of America stopped at the Santa Maria Public Airport for two days of passenger flights and tours as it embarked on its West Coast Farewell Tour. The crew of 24, including four pilots, will visit Livermore; Arcata; Eugene, Oregon; and Shelton, Washington, before returning to Sacramento on its way to its home base of Carson.

The venerable GZ-20A was christened on Sept. 5, 2002, by Letitia Driscoll, mother of New York City Police Officer Steve Driscoll who died when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001. It is one of only two GZ-20A airships remaining in service in the world.

“Our claim to fame is we’re more rare than astronauts,” said Bayliss, a Great Britian-born but San Joaquin Valley-raised pilot who also is a flight instructor.

Along with the Budweiser Clydesdales, the Goodyear blimps are easily one of the most recognizable corporate symbols in American history, with the first — Pilgrim — taking flight in 1925. And over the past 60 years, they have flown over sporting events from PGA golf to NASCAR events to the Super Bowl. The also cover the Academy Awards, Rose Parade, X-Games and ESPYs.

History is very important to Bayliss and the crew of approximately two dozen assigned to the Spirit of America. Not only was the blimp christened in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., Goodyear airships have been serving the country since 1925 and never more importantly than during times of war.

Goodyear was founded in 1898 and almost drafted into service in both world wars. Between 1942 and 1944, 152 Navy airships were built at Wingfoot Lake, New Jersey, Moffett Field in San Jose and Akron (Ohio) Airdock and put into service.

Bayliss said the airship’s ability to stay airborne for long periods was an important part of the Navy’s convoy escort duty, and during World War II, there were no ships reported lost when a blimp was on watch.  “They have a lot of history, and that’s why it’s cool to fly something like this,” he said.

The Spirit of America will provide aerial coverage of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay, Washington, and the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club in Sacramento before flying off into the sunset. Its tailfins and gondola, which has provided rides to thousands of lucky passengers over the past 13 years, will be displayed at a museum once it is retired.

Bayliss, who was a flight instructor before joining the Goodyear crew, said it takes close to a year of training to become certified to pilot an airship. He said most of the pilots have commercial flying or helicopter backgrounds. He also said it takes a huge effort by the ground crew to keep the airships flying.

Cruising over Santa Maria gives passengers an amazing view of the vast strawberry and vegetable fields covering the valley on each side of the city. It’s a perspective few people ever get.  “You actually get to enjoy the view,” Bayliss said.

In addition to the flights, the pilot and ground crew will be offering tours to members of the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley.

The Spirit of America’s retirement will make way for an all-new fleet of NT Zeppelins for Goodyear, which should be ready in a couple of years, according to company spokeswoman Priscilla Tasker.

2015-06-04T00:00:00Z Spirit of American flies into sunsetBrian Bullock Santa Maria Times

June 4, 2015   •  By Brian Bullock – Santa Maria Times

Planes Upgraded to Jets Instead of Props

Passengers flying out of Santa Maria are now heading to San Francisco. Direct flights to Los Angeles are no longer.

The airport made the switch Wednesday with two United Express flights traveling to San Francisco International Airport from Santa Maria Public Airport at 6 a.m. and 2:03 p.m.

“The changeover happened this morning and we’re excited that the upgrade in aircraft and hub has gone so well,” Airport District General Manager Chris Hastert said Wednesday. 

The switch to San Francisco as a hub provides access to 25 unique one-stop destinations that are not offered by United at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), such as Atlanta, Ft. Lauderdale, Kansas City and Indianapolis. It also provides an improved international element, with access to new destinations including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt Germany and Osaka, Japan.

Airport officials said the switch represents a substantial increase in both the number of flights and seats available.

Not only has a change occurred in destination, but in aircraft. The service to San Francisco — operated by Skywest Airlines — will use Canadair Regional Jet 200s, which allow 50 passengers, instead of the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft which was used to fly to LAX.

Skywest recently announced it would be retiring the turboprop aircraft, which prompted airport officials to look into other options.

Orcutt resident Brian Steven said he sees the switch as a positive change. He flew out of Santa Maria on one of the turboprop aircrafts before the change was made, and arrived back in Santa Maria on Wednesday on one of the newly available jet flights.  “I love the fact that it’s jets, not props,” Steven said. “Not that I didn’t feel safe, but the props are too noisy.”  He also said it was handier for one of his common flight destinations: Boise, Idaho.

However, some travelers found immediate problems with the service change. Bruce Praet, who lives in Orange County, was in Santa Maria for business and had to fly north to San Francisco in order to fly south to his final destination of Los Angeles on Wednesday.

Pismo Beach resident Sherry Richardson was headed to Kansas City, Missouri, by way of San Francisco on Wednesday and had weather concerns.  “Last time I tried to fly through San Francisco, my flight was canceled and I had to go the next day, so I don’t like to take a chance on San Francisco,” Richardson said. “I miss the flights to LA.”

Hastert, however, said overall the changes have been well received and customer feedback has been positive.  “The larger, faster, smoother aircraft are providing an enhanced customer experience,” he said.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

May 6, 2015  Santa Maria Times By Abby Hamblin

Flights from Santa Maria Public Airport are about to get easier with more options as United Airlines begins flying to and from San Francisco International Airport instead of Los Angeles International Airport on May 6.

With the change, travelers will have access to 35 unique one-stop destinations that are not offered at LAX and access to new international destinations, including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; and Osaka, Japan.

Chris Hastert, airport general manager, said the change was prompted by the announcement that Skywest was retiring the turboprop aircraft it has been using. That’s when airport officials thought it would be a good time to take a look at other ways to best address more of the airport’s needs.

The new United Express service, operated by Skywest, will replace the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft currently used on flights to L.A. with smoother, faster 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft. The aircraft will give the Santa Maria Airport a 67-percent increase in its available seating for travelers.

But Hastert said the airport didn’t want to add that capacity and not add more connections.

“Both San Francisco and Los Angeles are big hubs but United’s presence is a lot bigger at San Francisco than at Los Angeles,” Hastert said.

In May alone at the San Francisco Airport, there are 82 percent more flights on United and 85 percent more available seats on United than at LAX. That should give travelers more scheduling options.

Of course, along with enhanced flights travelers will notice a quieter, smoother ride as well, Hastert said.

The airport continues to work on its overall vision of adding new markets including to places like Denver and Seattle, Hastert said. However in recent years the fuel prices, economy and airline mergers had an effect on those discussions. He added that the climate is now changing for the better for airlines.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

Bookings on the new flights are now available at


3/25/15   Shelly Cone Contributing Writer – Santa Maria Times

Travelers using Santa Maria Public Airport will soon be flying on regional jets instead of turboprop aircraft and will have easier connections to dozens of cities as a result of upgrades announced today by the Airport District.

United Airlines flights serving the Santa Maria Public Airport will begin flying to and from San Francisco instead of Los Angeles on May 6.

That will enhance one-stop connections to the Central Coast’s currently most popular destinations, an airport spokesman said.

It will also make new international destinations available, including Paris, France; Chengdu, China; Frankfurt, Germany; Taipei, Taiwan; and Osaka, Japan.

The new United Express service, operated by Skywest, will replace the 30-passenger Embraer EMB 120 turboprop aircraft currently used on flights to Los Angeles with smoother, faster 50-passenger Canadair Regional Jet 200 aircraft.

United Express flights to San Francisco will leave Santa Maria at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. Arrivals from San Francisco will be at 1:32 and 11:47 p.m.

Bookings on the new flights are now available at

March 24, 2015  •  Staff report – Santa Maria Times

An Air Force Master Sgt. got a surprise welcome at Santa Maria Public Airport on Wednesday afternoon.

About 45 people, including more than a dozen uniformed airmen, shouted “Welcome home!” as Vanessa Boyd exited the secure area of the airport and walked through a corridor of supporters holding American flags.

Boyd, who is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, thanked the gathered supporters after greeting her husband.  “I’m so happy,” she said.

Boyd was returning from a tour in Qatar, a small country on the Arabian Peninsula.  She was presented with a banner signed by supporters and given a high five from the St. Bernard dog that serves as the mascot of Welcome Home Military Heroes.

Robert Tolan, co-founder of the group, was on hand to personally greet Boyd.  “You can’t even really describe it,” Tolan said of the feeling he gets welcoming troops home from overseas.

The Navy veteran and his wife, Cheryl, started the nonprofit organization about four years ago after they found that there wasn’t any organized groups greeting servicemembers at the airport.

One of the troops they’ve welcomed home is their own son, a cavalry scout in the Army who served in Afghanistan.  “We wanted to let them know they’re appreciated,” Tolan said.

For more information about Welcome Home Military Heroes, visit

2/5/15  Santa Maria Times  Top of Form

2015-02-04T17:25:00Z 2015-02-04T22:50:16Z Welcome home: Air Force master sergeant returns from QatarKyle Harding Santa Maria Times

Kyle Harding