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Aero-TV: Restoration of B-25 Hoisted from Alaskan Crash-Site Proceeding Apace

The Ballad of Sandbar Mitchell

Founded in 2013, Brighton, Michigan’s Warbirds of Glory Museum was formed to restore and fly historic aircraft for the noble purpose of promoting general understanding of the Second World War and its immense impact on American life, culture, and national identity.

By way of mentoring young people in mechanical and technical skills germane to the restoration of WWII-era aircraft, the museum’s founders and volunteers perpetuate awareness of America’s role in history’s most significant conflict, and occasion appreciation of the courage, patriotic resolve, and national values by which the United States facilitated Allied victory over the authoritarian socialist regimes of Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.

Principal among the museum’s exhibits is a North American B-25J Mitchell, medium bomber dubbed Sandbar Mitchell. The aircraft, serial number 44-30733, was manufactured at North American’s Fairfax Airport plant in Kansas City, Kansas in 1944, and served as a bomber trainer with the U.S. Army Air Force (USAAF) from 1945 to 1959. Upon completing her military service, the airplane was transferred into storage, dropped from the USAAF inventory, and designated surplus.

In 1960, the B-25 began her civilian life as N9088Z. She was converted to a fire-suppression bomber by Missoula, Montana’s Johnson Flying Service, and passed the 1960s fighting wildfires throughout America’s Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

On 27 June 1969, while fighting the Manley Hot Springs fire outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, N9088Z suffered a double-engine failure shortly after takeoff from Fort Wainwright. Pilot Herm Gallaher—after the fashion of Alaskan aviators—remained comported in peril’s baleful blast and skillfully landed the B-25 wheels-up on a sandbar in the Tanana River.

Her airframe damaged beyond practical repair, N9088Z was stripped of her engines, control-surfaces, and assorted salvageable giblets, and abandoned to time and the climatic brutalities of Alaska’s interior.
By 1979, local pilots had become accustomed to using N9088Z’s wreckage as a point-marker to turn from base to final on approach to Fairbanks International Airport’s Runway 02. Inevitably, the aircraft took on the nickname Sandbar Mitchell.

Forty-years passed—cruel years during which N9088Z was alternately scavenged for parts, souvenirs, and scrap-aluminum; and used for target practice by indiscriminate passersby.

In 2013 the sale of Sandbar Mitchell to the Warbirds of Glory Museum set in motion a recovery effort that spanned 22-days and saw the long-suffering B-25 transported 3,700-miles to Michigan, where she was unloaded and celebrated by her benefactors.

Currently, Sandbar Mitchell’s restoration is proceeding at a pace commensurate with the Warbirds of Glory Museum’s objective of having the venerable B-25 back on its landing-gear by 2025.

Parties interested in contributing to the B-25 restoration effort are invited to visit the museum’s website.
Aero-TV is a production of the Internationally syndicated Aero-News Network. Seen worldwide by hundreds of thousands of aviators and aviation adherents, ANN's Aero-TV has produced over 5000 aviation and feature programs, including nearly 2000 episodes of our daily aviation news program, AIRBORNE UNLIMITED, currently hosted by Holland Lee. Now in its third decade of operation, parent company Aero-News Network, has the most aggressive and intensive editorial profile of any aviation news organization and has published nearly a half-million news and feature stories since its inception -- having pioneered the online 24/7 aviation new-media model that so many have emulated.

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