B-25J “Mitchell”

News, Plane of the Week April 4, 2017

North American B-25J “Mitchell”
S/N 44-86772

Crew:  Five
Engines:  Two Wright R-2600-13 Double Cyclone radial; 1,700 hp each
Wingspan:  67 ft 7 in
Length:  53 ft 5 3/4 in
Height:  16 ft 4 3/4 in
Weight:  21,100 lbs empty; 33,500 lbs. loaded; 41,800 maximum
Speed:  230 mph cruise; 303 mph maximum
Range:  2,700 miles
Ceiling:  24,200 ft
Armament:  Eighteen .50 caliber machine guns; 3,200 lb bombs or one 2,000lb torpedo
Cost:  $142,194 (average B-25 unit cost as of 1944)

Our B-25 was accepted by the United States Air Force in June 1945 and was immediately placed into storage. It was moved around between various maintenance and storage fields in California, Missouri, and Texas. In January 1950 it was assigned to the 1050th Maintenance Service Unit at Andrews Air Force Base. in August 1952 the aircraft was transferred to the 1401st Air Base Wing-Utility at Andrews AFB.

After two years, the aircraft was sent to Birmingham for Hayes conversion and then returned to Andrews. in December 1957 the B-25 became part of the 1001st Air Base Wing, still at Andrews AFB, but was transferred to Davis-Monthan AFB for long term storage a year later. It was declared surplus to the United States Air Force needs and that summer it was sold to National Metals in Phoenix, AZ.

In January 1962 the aircraft made a forced landing in a farmer’s field in Argentina after suffering either engine problems or running out of fuel. The aircraft was apparently being used to smuggle cigarettes into Argentina from Paraguay at the time of the incident. It landed in a rough field and the nose wheel collapsed causing damage to the front of the aircraft.

It was then donated to a local flying club, where it was moved to a nearby airfield for display. Then a letter was sent to the FAA in November 1964 requesting that the aircraft’s registration be cancelled since it was permanently out of service. The registration was cancelled the next month and it sat at the small airfield in Argentina for the next 27 years.

In 1990 Don Whittington of Fort Lauderdale, Florida obtained the aircraft, and it sat in pieces in his hangar until 1993. The aircraft was reassembled and restored and Mr. Whittington traded the B-25 to the United States Air Force Museum System for four H-1 helicopters. The Mitchell was assigned to the Hill Aerospace Museum for permanent display and was painted to resemble the B-25s flown by the “Air Apaches” of the 345th Bombardment Group.

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