Renowned World War II bomber on sightseeing mission in Michigan
Ypsilanti — The Yankeee Warrior, a bomber famous for its raid on Tokyo during World War II, is flying from the Mediterranean island of Corsica to Michigan to give enthusiasts a one-of-a-kind experience.
The North American B-25D Mitchell Bomber will fly out of Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti on select dates throughout the spring and summer.
"The airplanes we have now were built on this plane's concept, but nowadays it's all by hydraulics," said Pilot Delane Buttacavoli, who has been flying with the Yankee Air Museum for 13 years. "Riding this, you can feel the forces against your body, the design, engineering and true workmanship that went into these flight controls.
"The design work is second to none and it'll bring you back to our roots," she said.
The B-25 is best known for its role in the Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942, when 16 of the bombers were launched without fighter escort from the USS Hornet in America’s first strike back at the enemy following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The aircraft, one of only two B-25Ds still flying, was built in December 1943 and flew for the 12th U.S. Army Air Force as part of the 57th Bomb Wing, 340th Bombardment Group and 489th Bomb Squadron. It is known to have flown eight combat missions out of Corsica under the care of Ezra Baer, crew chief.
It is in rare and pristine condition, having never been hit or damaged on a mission, museum officials said.
Once the plane is inflight, passengers are able to move about the cabin, seeing views from the back of the plane, crouching through to the cockpit and crawling to the nose of the plane, where the machine gun controller sits.
Jim Ellenberger from Ann Arbor buckled in Saturday saying it aroused all senses as the twin Wright Cyclone radial engines roared to life. Ellenberger's father was a B-17 pilot in World War II and served in 25 missions.
"I've been on the B-17 and this is a lot more vibration, extremely loud and cramped so it's harder to move around," said Ellenberger, 74. "My late father's history and service draws me to this. It's a great experience and one to check off the bucket list."
More than 9,800 B-25 planes were built.
The aircraft has a two-row, 14 cylinder engine and horsepower of 1,700 HP each. It can reach a maximum speed of 275 mph and will burn 150 gallons of fuel an hour.
A typical bomb load was 4,000 pounds and the aircraft has eight 0.50 caliber machine guns.
The B-25 is the only American military aircraft named after a specific person, General Billy Mitchell, often referred to as the "Godfather of Military Aviation." However, there is no conclusive evidence this specific plane bore a name or nose art, officials said.
Evan Callanan, a lawyer from Van Buren Township, boarded the aircraft Saturday saying he wanted to know what soldiers went through.
"Look at the glass nose on this plane. ... It's the best seat as long as no one is shooting at you," said Callanan, 67. "The bravery it must have taken these teams to board this ... it's a piece of history."
Now it's your turn:
The cost is $400, for an experience of approximately 40 minutes on board the aircraft including a flight of 25 minutes. The aircraft seats seven passengers.
Aboard the aircraft, the Yankee Air Museum offers a sightseeing game. The plane will fly over Michigan Stadium, Depot Town, Wiard's Orchards, Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium, North Hydro Park, Green Oaks Golf Course and the Ann Arbor Marriott at Eagle Crest. Those who take photos of at least two sights and post them on Facebook tagging the museum will receive two free tickets to an upcoming air show.
Contact the B-25 Air Adventures sales and scheduling office at Yankee Air Museum, (734) 483-4030, ext. 232. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.yankeeairmuseum.org.