Warbird Wrangler, Wings of Freedom Tour

Jamie Mitchell at the office, a B-24 cockpit: She often gets publicity for the Collings Foundation tour by inviting local TV reporters to broadcast the weather from one of the aircraft. (Tim Short)
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Title: Flight Coordinator at the Collings Foundation on the Wings of Freedom Tour

Jamie Mitchell’s office is the navigation desk of a B-17G. Sometimes while she’s eating lunch, she’ll look out the window and see a B-24 flying in formation with the B-17. “That’s what we call a traffic jam,” she jokes. The B-17, Nine-O-Nine, is one of just 10 airworthy Flying Fortresses remaining in the world.

The job: 330 days, 40 states, 120 cities: As the Wings of Freedom Tour travels the country, Mitchell coordinates visitor flights on the Boeing B-17G, Consolidated B-24J, and North American TB-25J and P-51C.

Typical day: She helps visitors tour the aircraft, coordinates 30-minute passenger flights, and encourages area veterans (and their families) to fly with them to their next stop, typically 40 minutes away.

The path: In 2013, Mitchell, a geologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, volunteered at the Planes of Fame Air Museum. There she met a group of Stearman enthusiasts and started flight lessons. During a 2015 conference in Houston, she saw that the Wings of Freedom Tour was in town. She stopped by, introduced herself, and applied for the job.

The staff: Pilot Robert Pinksten, lead mechanic Gary Dunn, and Mitchell. Everyone else is a volunteer. About 100 people volunteer during the season.

Philosophy: Once she and a fellow airline passenger began talking about a glider model she was carrying. At her urging, the passenger arranged rides for his sons through the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles program. She says, “If a little toy glider can get a guy to take all three of his sons out for their first flight with Young Eagles, then who knows? I’ve got three bombers and a Mustang. I can do even more!”  

—Rebecca Maksel

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