FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX AT FALCON FIELD AIRPORT
WW II BOMBER RETURNS TO THE SKIES
AFTER 28-YEAR RESTORATION
A North American B-25J “Mitchell” World War II bomber returned to the skies today after a 28 year restoration performed by volunteers of the Commemorative Air Force aviation museum in Mesa, AZ azcaf.org. Named “Maid in the Shade” in reference to its long stay inside the museum’s hangar, the aircraft lifted off the Falcon Field runway at 9:15 a.m. on Friday May 29, in front of a small crowd of pilots, mechanics and enthusiasts.
“This is a tremendous achievement for our volunteer members” said Rick Senffner, wingleader of the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. “The aircraft was painstakingly restored to its wartime configuration after being donated to the organization in 1981. It flew 15 combat missions against forces of the Axis out of Corsica with the 319th Bomb Group in 1944-45 before being decommissioned. After years of heavy use as a fire bomber, the general condition of the aircraft was pretty bad when we received it” says Senffner. “We restored it as a tribute to honor the veterans who fought for our freedom over sixty years ago.”
“The aircraft behaved beautifully” said Tim Jackson, an experienced pilot specialized in WWII bombers who had made the trip from Minnesota to be at the controls of “Maid in the Shade” for its first flight out of restoration. “This is one of the nicest B-25s that I have flown” he said. Jackson was assisted by copilot Russ Gilmore, a senior captain with a major airline, and Spike McLane, a corporate pilot acting as the flight mechanic. The lengthy restoration effort was supervised by Chuck Carl, a retired airline pilot and aircraft mechanic.
About the North American B-25J “Mitchell”
Named after General Billy Mitchell, the Army Air Corps' most famous figure of the 1920’s and 1930’s, the North American B-25 proved to be one of the most important American weapons of World War II. The twin-engine bomber became standard equipment for the Allied Air Forces in World War II, and was perhaps the most versatile aircraft of the war. It became one of the most heavily armed airplanes in the world, and was used for high-and low-level bombing, strafing, photo reconnaissance, submarine patrol and even as a fighter. It was also the aircraft that completed the historic raid over Tokyo in 1942 under Jimmy Doolittle’s command. Subsequently, it saw duty in every combat area, being flown by the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russians and Australians in addition to our own U.S. forces. Although the airplane was originally intended for level bombing from medium altitudes, it was used extensively in the Pacific theater of operations for bombing Japanese airfields from treetop level and for strafing and skip bombing enemy ships.
More than 9,800 B-25Js were built during WW II. The twin-tail, mid-wing land monoplane was powered by two 1,700-hp Wright Cyclone engines. Normal bomb capacity was 5,000 pounds. Some versions carried a 75 mm cannon in the conventional bombardier's compartment. One version carried fourteen forward-firing .50-caliber machine guns for strafing.
About the Commemorative Air Force
Commemorative Air Force (CAF) ranks as one of the largest private air forces in the world commemorativeairforce.org. The CAF is dedicated to Honoring American Military Aviation through flight, exhibition and remembrance with a flying museum of classic military aircraft. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has approximately 9,000 members and a fleet of almost 160 airplanes representing more than 60 different types – including planes from several foreign countries and military conflicts since World War II.
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