A B-25 back in Belgium

The Brussels Air Museum Fund has acquired a North American B-25J "Mitchell" to be preserved in Belgium . With your help, this airplane will be restored and displayed in Belgium as a memorial to those many Belgians who fought in the B-25 equipped 98, 180 and 320 Squadrons during WWII.

Although some “ guru's ” predicted our project will never succeed, there is now a North American B-25 "Mitchell" Back in Belgium . Some 15.000 Euro have been raised to acquire and transport the aircraft. It arrived on schedule on May 23th 2006 . The aircraft is now stored at Vissenaken thanks to the support of the managment and personnel of the Royal Army Museum

This was achieved thanks to the dedication, enthusiasm, creativity and competence of volunteers and professionals.

Today you have the opportunity to take an active part in this unique adventure and the growth of Aviation Heritage in Belgium.

Since many years, initiatives of the same kind have permitted to build up the Aviation Heritage in other countries.

The Netherlands are a good example : public initiatives have permitted to offer to the Dutch Air Museum significant aircraft like the Lockheed Constellation, Brewster Buffalo and Boeing 747.

Till now it wasn't easy to support aircraft preservation in Belgium . Now you have this opportunity.

You can contribute by:

  • Giving funds to pay for the  restoration of the plane. Financial contributions of more than 30 Euro are tax deductible,
  • Helping in restoring the B-25,
  • Gathering information about the B-25, Belgians flying the B-25, B-25 operations over Belgium , history of our aircraft.

By helping the project, you will:

  • Be co-owner of the project,
  • Take an active part in the growth of Aviation Heritage in Belgium,
  • Be informed about this project and other Aviation Heritage projects in Belgium,
  • Have your name listed in the official B-25 supporters list.

Your contribution is essential. We are presently looking for the following:

  • Funds and help for restoring the plane to a high exhibit standard.
  • Partners to subcontract restoration of the aircraft.  

Join us by giving funds to

Brussels Air Museum Fund a.s.b.l.
c/o Royal Army Museum
Parc du Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark, 3
B-1000 Brussels

bank account ING 310-1844 762-05 (mention “B-25 Project”)

IBAN: BE96310184476205  BIC: BBRUBEBB

 Any gift of 1000 Euro for this project gives the right

to a flight in a Chipmunk or a Piper J3 Cub from Grimbergen

 

 

For more information or if you want to help, contact:

  • Vincent Jacobs, Tel 02/652.5727
  • Didier Campion, Tel 02/216.2153 or GSM 0475/916.604, E-mail campion@cfigroup.be
  • Yves Duwelz, Tel 02/763.0019 (after 20hr00), E-mail yduwelz@gmail.com
  • André Bar Tel Tel 04/382 1729 E-mail andre.bar@skynet.be
  • Nicolas Godfurnon Tel 0497 859 952 E-mail nicolas.godfurnon@skynet.be

The "B-25 back in belgium" project


Search for a “Mitchell”

The first step was to find an available B-25 that could be acquired for a reasonable price and would be in reasonable condition for a static restoration.

B-25 "44-30861" Bedsheet bomber

This B-25 was stored in the open on North Weald aerodrome since 1987. We visited the plane and found it in a quite faded but acceptable condition for a plane let in the open for so many years.

It wasn't possible to visit the inside, but we heard that the main wing boom were sliced, something that was confirmed later on when we saw pictures of it being dismantled for restoration. At the time, it wasn't possible to purchase the plane that was left to corode till its recent acquisition.

B-25 "44-30925"

This B-25 is a Movie Star. It flew in movie Catch-22 as "Laden Maiden" in 1968-1969.

Later on in 1978 it flew in "Hannover Street" as 151632 "Georgeous George-Ann" and later "Thar She Blows".

After this last film, it was stored, changed hands several times and was stored at various location like Coventry Airport where it was parked at a place called 'Rock Farm'. It finished in a dismantled condition at Sandtoft.

There its condition, slowly but certainly, deteriorated.

In December 2004, a member of the BAMRS discovered in "Flypast" news, that a B-25 stored near Hull was on sales after demise of the Imperial Aviation Group.

A small project team was created and studied the possibility to raise funds for the project to buy and convoy the aircraft to Belgium, to find a place to store the aircraft during the restoration and a definitive place for display.

Just before the New Year 2005/6,  the Brussels Air Museum Fundation (BAMF) gave her formal approval to house the administrative and financial aspects of the project. In January 2006, the board of directors gave the official approval.

A bid was placed, which was accepted:

With reference to : The remains of the Mitchell B25 bomber formerly owned by Mr. David Copley and part of the "Imperial Aviation Collection"

The owner agrees to sell this aircraft " as is where is " for the sum of £10,000 (UK pounds). We are assured that the remains are a suitable basis for restoration to static display condition but the buyer is to ascertain for himself the condition and suitability for the purpose desired by the buyer.

That was the beginning …

First contact

As offered, the B25 was in a dismantled state, missing the engine and the gun turret, but in quite fair condition.

When first visiting the UK , we discovered that the plane was not where we expected it to be: we thought it was at Sandoft when it was at Doncaster.

There it was: it suffered from a move done in less than perfect condition and as it was stored in the open, the english weather was taking its tool.

Last but not least, we had to search the yard to find all the components of the plane scattered around. Two components were missing: a rudder and a flap.

It was planned at the time to put the plane under cover to protect it from further damage from the weather

First “light” transport

As soon as the payment of the plane had been completed, an emergency transport was scheduled to secure all the small components lying around in the yard.

The main concern was to avoid loosing components or having components damaged during unscheduled move.

For this first transport, we borrowed the van of “Literie Libau”… the custom officer was a bit surprised when he verified the load on our return trip!

The van was filled with the rudder, a main wheel, bomb doors, ailerons, elevators, U/C doors and the many small panels and parts that were lying in the yard or packed inside of the B-25's rear fuselage.

The most “dangerous” job was to retrieve parts lying at the bottom of a “Queen Mary” trailer, covered by a pile of "Lincoln" parts.

Soon after all the small components were retrieved, the plane was moved under cover at Cozencrost farm, some 2 km away from the previous location.

First “heavy” transport

Our efforts to get support to transport the plane's main components to Belgium were not successfull, because some people stated that “it wasn't possible to move this plane”.

Hopefully, thanks to some good contact we have in the transport field, we got a fair offer from the company “Van de Rijk”.

As that was our first “B25” transport experience, we limited this first “heavy” transport to see how much of a B25 can enter into a single 18m long trailer.

One big problem was that, despite of its dismantled condition, the various components of the “Mitchell” were not necessarily in the condition stated in the Handling Manual. A good example is the center section: one of the engine bearer was still in place, making it too wide a load for a normal trailer.

To try to solve this problem, we dismantled the offending bearer the day before the truck arrival. We were nicely surprised by the fact that, despite several years in the open, the main bolts and nuts were still in perfect condition and could be removed with very basic tooling equipment in far from perfect conditions.

Despite our efforts, the centre section was definitively too wide for normal road transportation thanks to the U/C legs stuck in the extended position. It was to be transported at a later stage.

During this first “heavy” transport we succeeded in transporting the front and rear fuselage, the two main wings, a main wheel and the dismantled engine bearer.

The fully laden truck arrived on Saturday at Vissenaken, ahead of schedule, and discharged the first B-25 components much to the delight of all our sponsors.

Second, and last, “heavy” transport

For the transport of the last and most cumbersome item, the centre section, we had to require the services of “ABN Transport ”, specialized in “non-standard” transport.

This last move went straightforward and without surprise. All the component of the B-25 are now in storage at Vissenaken.

The restoration begins and plan for the future

First components to be restored are the rudder. Those suffered a lot because none of the internal components were painted !

Thanks to  Colonel Avi Renard, C.O. of 2nd Wing, an experienced sheetworker, Hector Maurage, started to restore those components back to condition in the workshop of Florennes airbase.

Short term restoration planning

  • Restoration of the tail plane: The objective is to restore and re-assemble the complete tailplane.
  • Restoration of the back fuselage: This big fuselage component is mostly corrosion free. It would require some sheet metal repair around the emergency exit, a thorough cleaning, corrosion treatment and corrosion protection treatment.

Once completed with the tail assembly, the all B-25's back fuselage will be ready for display.

Latest restoration news (April 2007)

Here under are a few pictures of the rudder receiving much needed attention in the metal workshop of Florennes airbase. At work are Eric Dessouroux and Hector Maurage.

Another good news was received by our team a few days ago: NewICC, a company specialized in corrosion treatment, accepted to help us in our restoration work. We will be able to treat complete component, like the fuselage, at very competitive price, saving thousands of man-hours on the project!

 

Latest restoration news (January 2008)

Corrosion treatment

The B-25 is now, since mid-August, stored in the premises of NewICC.

All the components will be paint removed, passivated and treated chemically before a protective coat will be applied.

Advantages of this chemical treatment: the corrosion, paint and others dirt, often impossible to remove by sand blasting (inside a beam, for example) will be removed.

Before this chemical treatment, the various components need to be prepared.

This preparation includes:

  • the manufacture of all the jigs needed to move and work on the components without damaging them.
  • -removal of all the equipment to allow access to the all airframe

The wings, rear fuselage and tailplane are already on their supports, the nose will soon follow.

The rear fuselage and tailplane are ready to be treated, the wings will soon follows. Big tasks ahead: preparation of the nose and centre section.

Undercarriage

A new sponsor agreed to completely renew the B25'sundercarriage, free of charge.

Equipment purchase

Despite the fact most of our resources are now used to prepare and treat the components, we are starting to acquire the many missing pieces of equipments.

Twelve original instruments have been already purchased or exchanged.

A B-25 painting to promote the project

In order to thanks our best sponsors and help us promote the project we asked a gifted artist, Claude Lesoil, to create a painting representing a 320 Squadron “Mitchell” above the “Cinquantenaire”.

Good quality copies of this painting will soon be available.

 

Latest restoration news (December 2009)

Because of an unexpected event, the bankruptcy of NewIcc, the treatment of the B-25's main components was not anymore possible. Only the small components, like the fuselage floors, hatches and the like, had been treated by NewIcc before this event.

Resaon why in October 2009, the B-25 left the premises of NewIcc for Melles, where the main components have been sandblasted by a specialized company. The transport and arrival of the plane at Melles attracted a lot of attention, many newspaper published articles and the television went to realize a reportage !

BAMRS members worked already two full week-end at Melles to prepare the sandblasted components for a protective coat of paint.

The all rear fuselage and wings has been already painted, the cockpit and center section are still being worked on.

Here are (very) few picture of the work accomplished. You can even see some of the BAMRS members that worked in " artic" condition to finish the job before the end of the year.

To see more, just have a look at the B-25 Pictures gallery

 

Latest restoration news (April 2010)

The Melles operation was successfully concluded on April, 17th 2010 with the arrival of Pat's Victorie in at the Recreatief Vliegveld Grimbergen. (Being one of the very rare airplane in motion this week end thanks to the Ash cloud over Europe).

The sandblasting and primer application was completed in March. Tthe B-25 was then ready to move to Grimbergen to be stored before further restoration. However, we needed to take care to the weather conditions and the transport was to be done under strict environment conditions to avoid nuisances. Finally, all the conditions were filled, the transfer was organized in a few hours by the volunteers.

The aircraft left Melles by truck at 11:30 and reached Grimbergen on 14:00.

  B25GR005.jpg B25GR006.jpg B25GR007.jpg B25GR008.jpg B25GR009.jpg  

To see more, just have a look at the B-25 Pictures gallery


Peter Arnold kindly sent us a few pictures taken in May 1978 at RAF Bovingdon.

He was at the Hanover Street filming ..... and almost flying: they caught fire on the take off run in 'Brenda's Boy'!

 

Hanover Street is a 1979 movie written and directed by Peter Hyams , starring Harrison Ford and Lesley-Anne Down . Set in London during World War II , Ford plays an American bomber pilot serving with the Eighth Air Force in the UK .

Mostly filmed at Bovingdon airfield using a number of B-25's , some of which were flown over to England specially for the filming, the film looks like a mix between Catch-22 and Indiana Jones.

 

 


The North American B-25 "Mitchell": a short type history


The “Mitchell” was the most important aircraft in its class, built in large quantity and proving its worth in both the Pacific and European theatres of war.

It was made immortal on April 18, 1942, when it became the first United States aircraft to bomb the Japanese mainland during the dark days of early 1942 .

Commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, sixteen Mitchell's took off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet , flew 800 miles ( 1287 km ) to Japan , and attacked their targets. Most made forced landings in China . They were the heaviest aircraft at the time to be flown from a ship at sea.

From D-Day preparation to the Victory.

The major operator of the B- 25 in Northern Europe was the R.A.F. The first B-25 reached the UK in September 1942 to equip the 98 & 180 Squadrons. Further squadrons converted to the type including 305 (Polish) and 320 (Dutch) Squadrons, this unit including many Belgian aviators. In preparation of the landings of June 1944, the Mitchell squadrons of the R.A.F. operated against the V1 sites in Northern France and communication centres (bridges, roads, railway stations). During the Normandy operations and later, the units of the R.A.F. flying the Mitchell were incorporated in the 2nd Tactical Air Force to form the 139 Wing which provided tactical support to the advance of the Allied armies. In October 1944, the 139 Wing was transferred from the UK to Melsbroek. The Mitchell operated from there until April 1945, later moving to the Netherlands and Germany .
After the Second World War, B-25s were used as trainers under the designation TB-25; some others were used as liaison aircraft. On May 21, 19 60 , the last serving aircraft, a VB-25J staff transport, was retired from service.

The B-25 was designed to answer a United States ' Army Air Corps requirement of 1939 requesting a bomber with a range of 3,200 kilometres , a maximum speed of 480 km/h , and a bomb load of 1.360 kg .

The result was the "NA-62" which first flew on 19 August 1940.

It had tricycle landing gear, a twin tailfins, R-2600-9 Wright Twin Cyclone engines of 1,350 HP and defensive armament of three 7.62 mm Brownings, with one each in the nose, waist, and floor, plus a 12.7 mm (0.50 calibre) Browning in the tail position.

From the tenth aircraft, the outer wing panels were made horizontal to enhance stability and this modification gave the Mitchell its distinctive frontal silhouette. A total of twenty-four B-25s were built before the B-25As came into production.

B- 25 A

The B-25A was a bit more suited for combat than its predecessor, having self sealing fuel tanks and crew armour. It first flew on 25 February 1941 and most of them were used for coastal patrol and reconnaissance.

B-25 B

It differed from the B- 25 A primarily in having a much heavier defensive armament, dictated by the results of combat reports coming in from Europe.

The "B-25B" was equipped with twin Bendix power turrets, each with two 12.7 mm Brownings. One of the turrets was placed on top of the rear fuselage, the other was a retractable belly turret, positioned just forward of the top turret and remotely sighted through a periscope. The tail gun was deleted, but the 7.62 mm Browning in the nose was retained. The additional armament resulted in an increase in weight, which reduced performance since the engines remained unchanged.

The wingspan of the aircraft was increased slightly while the length was reduced slightly.

A total of 120 B-25Bs were delivered in 1941, in time to be thrown into fighting all over the world.

The B-25D was identical to the "C", the only difference being the "D" was manufactured at a new Kansas City , Missouri , factory instead of the NAA's Inglewood , California , factory.

The B- 25C was the result of combat experiences. Difficult to distinguish externally from a B-25B, B-25C/D represented a considerable improvement: Wright Twin Cyclone R-2600-13 engines, each providing 1,700 HP, autopilot, increased fuel capacity, provision for under wing racks for external fuel tanks or bombs, stronger wings, a de-icer system and a cabin heater. Later on, a navigator's astrodome would be added behind the cockpit. Armament in the nose position was upgraded to one fixed and one flexible 12.7 mm Browning in later production. It was 25 centimetres shorter than the B-25B.

The "C" was in reality the first mass produced Mitchell with over 1,600 produced.

The B-25C/D was to be used in the South Pacific, in China-Burma-India and in North Africa .

The RAF received 367 B-25Cs and 212 B-25Ds, which they designated "Mitchell Mk II" and were the first B-25s to see combat with the RAF.

Development of the B-25C/D, it was specifically developed for ship hunting, the firepower being enhanced by a M-4 75mm cannon (based on the French 75 used during World War I) firing out the nose on the left side of the aircraft. The G model was also equipped with more extensive armor plating given its role as a ground attack and strafing platform.

The design featured a number of modifications to the nose to carry the 75-mm cannon. The 2.9 m long cannon weighed 410 kg and was located in a cradle in the lower left-hand side of the nose. Located just above the cannon were two 0.50-inch caliber machine guns. Further modifications to the basic B-25 included addition of a spring mechanism and structural strengthening to handle the 21-inch recoil of the M4 cannon.

The first production B-25G was delivered to the USAAF in May 1943.

North American continued the B-25 design development, ending with the B-25 H.

The B-25 H was considerably improved over the "G". It retained the short nose of the B-25-G and the 75 mm cannon, though it was a different model. However, the B-25-H's forward firing machine gun armament was much more impressive, with a total of eight forward-firing machine guns.

It incorporated as well the first really functional tail turret, fitted with twin 12.7 mm Brownings, resulting in a deeper fuselage to accommodate it. There was also a single flexible 12.7 mm Browning on each side of the fuselage, in staggered positions behind the wing.

The top turret was moved forward to behind the cockpit and was changed to a new NAA design that gave the gunner a better field of view and was better contoured to reduce drag.

The first B-25H flew in May 1943 and it started to be delivered to combat units in early 1944.

The B-25-J was identical to the B-25H, but with no 75 mm cannon and a different nose. Two “nose” were developed: the first was a bombardier nose with one flexible and two fixed 12.7 mm Brownings, and the second was a "solid" nose with eight 12.7 mm Brownings. The longer noses resulted in the B-25J returning to the length of the B-25C/D. Other changes included reinstatement of the co-pilot position, giving the B-15-J a six-man crew, and uprated P&W R-2600-29 engines.

A total of 4,390 were built at a new NAA plant in Kansas City , making the B-25J the most heavily produced of the Mitchell.

The RAF received 375 B-25Js and gave them the designation of "Mitchell Mark III",

Trainer and civilian use

The wide availability, good handling characteristics, and flexibility of the Mitchell made it an excellent training platform. In 1948, Mitchell trainers were given rational designations "TB- 25C ", "TB-25D", "TB-25G", and "TB-25J", correctly reflecting their original bomber designations.

Many of the TB-25Js were fitted with additional seats and a few other changes in the post-war period, as well as converted into pilot trainers with the designations "TB-25L" and "TB-25N". Most of these modifications were performed by Hayes Aircraft Corporation of Birmingham , Alabama .

Fire fighting, war birds and film stars

Available in quantity as surplus after the end of World War Two, numerous B-25s were used as engine test bed, fire fighting aircraft and light transport aircraft.

Some others were also preserved as war birds and still appear in air shows. The B-25 was also used in numerous films.

Some were modified to be used as flying filming platform: for the filming of “The Battle of Britain” or more recently on the stage of “Memphis Belle”. Mitchell's were the stars of classic movies such as “Thirty Seconds over Tokyo ” about the Doolittle raid on Tokyo featuring Spencer Tracy and Robert Mitchum. “Catch 22” and “ Hannover Street ” were two other movies where some B-25s were grouped to represent typical WWII US bombers. Our B-25 is a Movie Star appearing in “Catch 22” & “ Hannover Street ”.

B-25 "44-30925" history

  • Delivered to USAAF as 44-30925, 19??.
  • Stored at Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, Aug. 1958-1960.
  • Sold to National Metals Co, Phoenix , AZ , 1960.
  • Registered as N9494Z.
  • John Carter & Will Baptist, Sacramento , CA , July 1960-1964.
  • Empco-Aire, Lakeview , OR , Aug. 1964-1966.
  • Virgil W. Ellis, Boulder, CO, Mar. 1966.
  • John C. Estes, Beaumont , TX , Apr. 1966-1968.
  • Filmways Inc, Hollywood , CA , Dec. 1968-1970.
  • Flew in movie Catch-22 as "Laden Maiden", 1968-1969.
  • Confederate Air Force, Harlingen , TX , Feb. 1970-1972.
  • Wayne Turner/Michael Zahn, Lubbock , TX , Feb. 1972-1975.
  • John J. Stokes, San Marcos , TX , Sept. 1975-1978.
  • Flew as 430925/61/"Laden Maiden".
  • John Hawke/Visionair International Inc, Miami , FL , Apr. 1978-1995.
  • Arrived in Luton , UK , May 11, 1978 .
  • Used in movie " Hannover Street".
  • Flew as 151632/"Georgeous George-Ann" (later "Thar She Blows")
  • Stored Blackbushe after filming, 1978-1982.
  • Trucked from Blackbushe to Wellesbourne Mountford, Oct. 1982.
  • Trucked to Coventry , and stored, 1985-1994.
  • World Wide Aircraft Ltd, Aug. 1995.
  • Removed from USCR, Aug. 14, 1995 .
  • Aces High Ltd, North Weald, Aug. 18, 1995 -1998.
  • Registered as G-BWGR.
  • Stored, dismantled.
  • David Copley/Imperial Aviation Group, North Coutes (later Sandtoft),
  • UK , 1998-2001.
  • Stored pending restoration to airworthy, Sandtoft, 2001.

Source : http://www.warbirdregistry.org/b25registry/b25-4430925.html

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