WWII bomber flight signals approach of Colorado Springs air show

By: Nick Beadleston, Special to The Gazette
August 5, 2014 Updated: August 6, 2014 at 8:52 am
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Alan Wojciak flies a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt off the wing of a B-25J bomber as they head to a flyover at an airshow in Erie Saturday, July 12, 2014. These planes, along with approximately 40 others, will be flown in the Pikes Peak Regional Air Show on August 9 and 10. Photo by Julia Moss, The Gazette

Takeoff was something akin to being tossed around inside a malicious drying machine: hot, violent and deafeningly loud.

But the WWII B-25 bomber was not designed for comfort. It was designed to deliver devastating blows to the enemy while taking a beating itself.

More than 70 years after the plane first took to the skies, the design of the B-25 has withstood the test of time.

Members of the all-volunteer WestPac Restorations, part of Colorado Springs' WWII Aviation Museum, gathered on the tarmac as two of their rebuilt aircrafts, a B-25 Mitchell and a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter plane, prepared to take off.

The plan was to fly about 100 miles north to Erie for an air show flyby to promote the museum's upcoming air show.

Several media members had come to strap themselves in, and experience the ride.

Piloting the bomber was museum volunteer Bill Klaers, who just might have more experience in B-25s than anyone alive.

"The B-25 is historic," he said. "It was one of the most versatile aircraft, as far as medium bombers, and it flew in every theater of the war. It's an honor to fly it."

The B-25 played an integral role in the Doolittle Raid over Japan, a pivotal point for U.S. forces in the Pacific theater.

After the B-25 impressed audiences at the Erie air show - flying close enough that passengers were able to make out astonished faces - it headed back to home and hanger.

While keeping planes from being shot down was a constant concern during the war, now it is a challenge for the museum to get the aircraft airborne.

"This airplane, for every hour that you fly it, we put probably close to 150 to 200 hours of maintenance into it," Klaers said.

He estimated it costs about $2,500 an hour to fly the aircraft.

"A 70-year-old plane takes a lot of babying," said Jason Arndt, who served as the crew chief for the flight.

While in the air, Arndt kept a steady eye on the engines and other parts of the aircraft from its midsection.

Once back on the ground, Arndt and several other volunteers meticulously wiped down the plane and conducted a detailed inspection.

The B-25 is one of more than 40 historic aircraft that will fill the sky over the Colorado Springs Airport on Saturday and Sunday during the Pikes Peak Regional Air Show.

In addition, there will be several interactive exhibits and performances by the Air Force Academy's Wings of Blue parachute jump team.

Proceeds from the show go toward maintenance and operations of the museum and its aircraft, and its sister organization, the Peterson Air and Space Museum.

John Henry, a Colorado Springs WWII Aviation Museum board member, said the air show will serve as a tool to teach students about history, engineering, math and science.

"There's so much a youngster can learn from WWII, and from the aircraft," he said. "That's the core mission of the WWII Aviation Museum."

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WhenAug. 9-10 show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, gates open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
WhereColorado Springs Airport, located on Milton E Proby Pkwy
Cost$10-$15 at the gate, $8-$13 in advance. Parking $5. Children. Tickets are cash only. 5 and under get in free. 
For more information, visit pprairshow.org

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Contact Nick Beadleston:
nick.beadleston@gmail.com

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