Michigan pilots hope to recover crashed B-25

A 30‐year-old Michigan man is organizing a recovery team to rescue a crashed B‐25 from Alaska. This June, Patrick Mihalek from Brighton, is planning to recover a nearly 70‐year old North American B‐25J Mitchell bomber (USAAF # 44‐30733) from her remote crash site in Alaska.

This World War II era bomber was nicknamed “Sandbar Mitchell” after she was forced to land on a dry sandbar in the Tanana River outside of Fairbanks after a double‐engine failure shortly after takeoff in 1969.

1969-2“It has been a lifelong dream of mine since I was very young to own a B‐25 Mitchell” Said Mihalek. “There are very few B‐25 wrecks to be recovered. I cannot believe it is still there. We are very fortunate to have obtained the rights to recover Sandbar Mitchell.”

Along with his friend Todd Trainor, he has been working since January to secure the ownership and permits. The two men are seeking members to join the recovery team in Alaska in late June. The application deadline is May 14th.

A crowd funding campaign has launched on Kickstarter.com to help raise the cash needed to recover the remains of this B‐25 and transport her to Michigan.


Todd (left) and Patrick by the front section of the bomber

Using parts from other salvaged B‐25s and hunting for additional parts, the two hope to rebuild her to flying status. She will fly as Sandbar Mitchell under the public trust for the non‐profit Warbirds of Glory Museum.

“This area of Alaska is very dry and salt‐free,” says Trainor. “Although other people have taken some of her parts, Mother Nature has been very kind. There is very little corrosion of the remaining parts. The critical center section, including the spars and wing attachments, are in excellent shape.”

Hemlock Films, the producers of Red Tail Reborn, has agreed to film this journey to be broadcasted later in a new series “The Restorers.”

To learn more about this project, to join the recovery team, or to view photos and videos, go to SandbarMitchell.org.


After serving her duties with the USAAF from 1944 to 1959, Sandbar Mitchell continued to serve her country as fire‐suppression bomber, Tanker #8, registered as N9088Z. Owned by Edgar Thorsrud, she was one of several B‐25s used in Alaska in the late 1960s to help fight forest fires.

N9088Z_Firebombing_mediumOn June 27, 1969, she was called into duty to help fight the Manley Hot Springs fires. Shortly after takeoff she experienced double‐engine failure. Pilot Herm Gallaher had very few options.

Rather than landing in the river or in the forest he landed gear up on a small dry sandbar in the middle of the Tanana River. He walked away, but the right wing was damaged and the forward fuselage was wrinkled.

After removing her engines, propellers and wheels she was abandoned. Untouched by the ravages of nature, the condition of the aluminum and steel structures is remarkably good. Unfortunately, many people have visited Sandbar Mitchell and have taken souvenirs or sadly cut off her outer wings, forward and aft section. Fortunately the heart and soul of Sandbar Mitchell, the valuable center section, still remains on the sandbar today.

b25-4430733-2Patrick is 30 years old. He was born to love aviation. He attended every EAA Air Academy and participated in the BSA Aviation Explorers. He graduated Western Michigan University with a B.S. in Aviation Maintenance. He is a certified FAA A&P mechanic. He has his own business called Legends of Aces Aviation where he restores and maintains warbird aircraft. His current project is restoring a rare NA‐64 Yale.

Todd is 49 years old. He grew up with a father who restored and operated a 1937 Aeronca K. While attending college he helped is father restore another Aeronca. In the 90’s Todd established the Aeronca.com website and dedicated his time to preserving Aeronca factory drawings and capturing the knowledge of his father. Todd now works in the IT industry as a certified project manager. In 2011 he became the Director of the Aeronca Aircraft History Museum, an online virtual museum that supports the preservation of antique Aeronca aircraft.


  1. says

    Thanks for finally talking about >Michigan pilots hope to recover crashed B-25 — General Aviation News <Liked it!

  2. Linda S. Berl says

    It’s amazing that there is that much left of the Mitchell after all these years. It will be a great thing to have it refurbished and flying again.
    I would love to be part of the recovery team. What an adventure it will be!

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