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Stowed away

Posted by Ralph Ranalli September 9, 2007 07:42 AM

Robcollings.jpg
Rob Collins, 33, is the chief pilot for the Stow-based Collings Foundation.
(Photo by Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe_

STOW

To get to the Collings Foundation, a visitor must follow directions that seem more likely to lead to an underground rave party than one of the world's foremost private collections of vintage aircraft and automobiles.

Drive down the one-lane lakeside road until you reach the little yellow house on the left with the chain link fence. Turn right up the tree-lined driveway that seems to go nowhere. Continue 50 yards past the battered black "No Trespassing" sign nailed to a tree and you're there.

There are no other signs, not even a mailbox. In short, there's nothing that would alert a casual passerby to the presence of 65 historic cars and trucks,10 aircraft in their own enormous hanger, a private airstrip, and the busy corporate headquarters of the "Wings of Freedom" program, which is arguably the most popular attraction on the US airshow circuit.

And that's by design. Bob Collings, his wife Caroline, and their son Rob have spent as much time polishing their neighborly image in tiny Stow (population 6,218) as they have burnishing the 1944 Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber that many consider the best-restored aircraft of its type in existence.

In past years, as the New England airshow season began in September, the nonprofit, educational foundation's Stow headquarters would have been quiet even as its stars -- three WWII bombers fully restored to flying condition -- were the featured attractions at shows in New Bedford, Plymouth, and Beverly.

In fact, the family has opened their 70-acre facility to the public just once each year, for an open house on Father's Day weekend. But in a sign that the foundation is carefully raising its low local profile, it has now added a second public event in Stow to their annual calendar, a "Living History Weekend," on Oct. 6 and 7.

Read more about the Collings Foundation in the online edition of today's Globe West.

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