Saturday, October 22, 2016

Book review: B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service

I’ve had an affinity for the B-25 going way back to my teenage years. One of the first models I built was Monogram’s B-25, and a few years later I found that an airworthy B-25 was occasionally tied down at a nearby airport. Then in 1985 I got a flight in a B-25 at (if I recall correctly) Sun ’n Fun, the big Central Florida airshow. Today I have two Hasegawa B-25s in the stash, as well as a Minicraft 1/144 kit, and I’ve been patiently looking for the HK Models 1/32 kit for the right price.

A few weeks ago while browsing the Warbird Information Exchange forums I found a promotional link to Aero Vintage books, where Scott Thompson’s book B-25 Mitchell in Civil Service is offered at a discounted price of just $10. It’s rare these days to find a true bargain, so with a couple of clicks and a short one-week wait and the book was in my hands.

And it’s a very nice book. As you know, in the downsizing that followed World War Two thousands of aircraft were scrapped or sold, and this book traces the path of many of the B-25s that wound up in civilian ownership. Chapters focus on executive and research use of the B-25 (a role in which the B-25 served in the USAF for many years after the war), air tankers and agricultural sprayers, and conversions for use by Hollywood for air-to-air filming and photography. The history of the B-25’s post-war usage is accompanied by dozens of fascinating photographs showing the B-25 in a myriad of civilian markings and, sadly, disrepair.

Interjected throughout the book are fascinating stories about several pilots who flew the B-25, such as one who flew avionics test flights for Bendix, an air tanker pilot, two who flew B-25s for movies, and another who restored the B-25 that I flew in as a teenager, 44-31508/N6578D. (On a side note, that aircraft is now in Australia, having been purchased by Reevers Warbird Roundup. It’s in restoration and will be unveiled in April 2017. Warbird News wrote about its acquisition.)

The books wraps up with a substantial history of individual B-25s.

If you’re a fan of the B-25 you’ll appreciate the history of industrious engineers and pilots who extended the life of the aircraft well into the 1960s, and beyond if you consider the 25-30 B-25s that are airworthy today. (Someone let me know if that count is inaccurate.)

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