It’s loud, silver and looks like something out of the Second World War — because it is.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has sponsored an event in Regina this weekend giving people the chance to fly inside a 1944 B-25J Mitchell Bomber.
The plane is replica of its namesake, Miss Mitchell. It has never been in combat and was actually a trainer until the 1960s. The mural painted on the side by the same artist who worked on the original. She was actually named after a first grade school teacher.
After 20 years with the National Guard, Randy Henrikson saw many of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) aircrafts flying over his home not far from St. Paul, Minnesota. He knew he needed to be a part of it and was delighted to learn you don’t have to be a pilot to be part of the CAF.
On the trip to Regina from St. Paul, he sat in the tail of the plane.
“The view is fantastic, actually, thrilling. But after a little while you start (to think about) the guys who were back there during the war,” he said.
Miss Mitchell served in the 310th Bomb Group, 57th Bomb Wing of the 12th Air Force in North Africa and Italy completing over 130 missions. What makes it special that there were no crew fatalities during an of its missions — a rare accomplishment. The original plane was eventually shot down. The model in Regina this weekend came off the assembly line in November 1944.
The weekend is also a chance for Saskatchewan aviation enthusiasts to look back to our own history with the B-25s.
“After the war, B-25s became one of the primary training aircrafts for the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). There were units around western Canada that flew the B-25 including an advanced training unit in Saskatoon,” said Malcolm McLeod with the Regina Flying Club.
“They had radar installed in the B-25 and they would train the radar intercept officers – the guys who sat in the back seat of the CF-100 all weather interceptors. The last B-25 that the RCAF owned left Saskatchewan in 1958 and there hasn’t been one — as far as I know, with exception of Miss Mitchell who has been at the Saskatoon Air Show a couple times — that’s been the only B-25 in Saskatchewan since the late ’50s,” said McLeod.
The crew from CAF want people here to get inside and explore the aircraft.
“A lot of folks have relatives who flew or maintained these aircraft. We’re also history buffs. But the biggest thing is to keep the education alive with the radial engines – you don’t see this planes anymore,” said Dave Tischer, co-pilot.
“As time goes on, they’re becoming very rare. When this plane was built in 1944, there were 10,000 total built. Now there are about 30 flying in the world. So they’re becoming more and more extinct. So we want to keep them flying to keep that education alive,” said Tischer.
Miss Mitchell may look like she’s still in 1944, and largely she is. But some of her instruments have been modified to keep her flying under aviation laws. She is now equipped with GPS and XM weather. The engines are overhauled every 1,000 hours or so with new parts. When she’s in the air, Miss Mitchell burns through about 140 gallons (529 litres) of fuel an hour.
The event is being hosted at the Regina Flying Club near the Regina International Airport from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. To go inside the aircraft, there is a $6 charge. To take a flight, it will cost $600. They are not limiting the number of flights and will take up anyone who wants to experience the Second World War-era plane.