A North American B-25N Mitchell World War II bomber returned to the skies on May 31 after a 28 year restoration by volunteers of the Commemorative Air Force aviation museum in Mesa, Arizona.
Named “Maid in the Shade” in deference to its extended stay inside the museum’s hangar, the aircraft lifted off the Falcon Field runway as a small crowd of pilots, mechanics and enthusiasts watched, said Rick Senffner, leader of the CAF’s Arizona Wing.
“This is a tremendous achievement for our volunteer members” said Senffner. “The aircraft flew combat missions in Europe during World War II, and then became a slurry bomber when it was decommissioned. It was in pretty bad shape when it was donated to us in 1981. We made a point to restore it to its wartime configuration as a tribute to all the veterans who fought for our freedom more than 60 years ago.”
“The aircraft behaved beautifully” said Tim Jackson, a highly qualified B-25 pilot who came from Minnesota to be at the controls of “Maid in the Shade” for her first flight out of restoration. “This is one of the finest B-25s that I have flown. Hats off to the restoration crew!” Jackson was assisted by copilot Russ Gilmore, a senior captain with a major airline, and Spike McLane as the flight mechanic.
The Arizona Wing of the CAF has plans to present “Maid in the Shade” along its Boeing B-17G, “Sentimental Journey,” on the air show circuit once its break-in period is complete.
“Maid in the Shade,” B-25N serial number 43-35927, was flown by the 319th Bomb Group out of Serragia, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, during 1944-45. She then was decommissioned stateside and transformed into a slurry bomber, fighting forest fires for the next 35 years. She was donated to the Arizona Wing of the CAF in November of 1981 and had not flown since. The lengthy restoration was performed entirely by volunteer members of the CAF under the supervision of retired airline pilot and aircraft mechanic Chuck Carl.