B-25 MITCHELL "PANCHITO"

Rag Wings and Radials’ B-25J is restored as “Panchito” that served with the 396 Bomb Squadron, 41st Bomb Group, 7th Air Force, stationed in the Central Pacific. The B-25J “Panchito”, hosted by the Disabled American Veterans will be on static display and will take flight each day of the show.

Produced in greater numbers than any other American twin-engine combat aircraft, the North American B-25 was one of the most famous twin-engine medium bombers used during World War II. It achieved worldwide fame on April 18, 1942, when sixteen B-25’s, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle, were launched from the aircraft carrier, Hornet, and attacked Tokyo and other Japanese cities in a daring air raid. Although this is one of its most famous missions, the B-25 played a larger part in WWII.  B-25s were used on all fronts of the war from Alaska to North Africa to China, Europe to the Southwest Pacific. They were flown by the U.S. Army Air Forces and U.S. Marine Corps, as well as the air forces of Britain, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, Brazil, and the Netherlands East Indies. Post war, B-25s soldiered on in combat or other roles with the U.S. Air Force, and air forces of Canada, Indonesia, and many Latin American countries.

The B-25 was designed as a medium bomber, to operate from altitudes between 8 and 12 thousand feet. Powered by two 1700 hp Wright R-2600 engines, the basic configuration stayed the same throughout the production of this aircraft. However, there were many changes in armament made in order to improve both offensive and defensive capabilities. These variations included 75 mm cannon, or up to eighteen .50 cal. machine guns, and rockets. Some were modified to carry torpedoes, both standard aerial and glide versions. Tactics used in the South and Southwest Pacific included low altitude strikes with straffing and skip-bombing against shipping and para-frag bombs against airfield targets. The airplane was also used for photo-mapping, and as an advanced trainer and fast transport.

The Present day Panchito, B-25J, was manufactured by North American Aviation, Kansas City Ks, and delivered to the USAAF on 16 Feb, 1945. It was transferred from air force base to air force base until it dropped from inventory as surplus in December 1959.  It was sold to its first civilian owner, a fire fighting business. During the early 1960’s it was highly modified into a tanker to fight forest fires and served in that duty until being sold in 1968 to the Howe brothers in Florida, who modified the tanker further by adding spray bars attached to the wing hard-points and operated if off their grass strip as an orange grove sprayer and mosquito bomber well into the 1970’s. They called it “Big Bertha”. Imagine the sight of a B-25 screaming along at take-off power, ten feet above an Orange grove, leaving a cloud of mist behind? The noise and sight of a B-25 coming at a mosquito was enough to scare it to death!

 

By 1978, the B-25 was getting very weary and corrosion from the chemicals was taking its toll. Richard and Bob Howe were now using C-47’s and Beech 18’s for their spraying business. They donated their beloved B-25 to the S.S.T. Museum, in St. Cloud Florida. Shortly thereafter, the museum liquidated its assets and Tom Reilly purchased the airframe and moved it to his storage facility in Orlando. He began a total rebuild back to it’s original “J” model configuration, completing it for its new Texas owners in 1986. After arriving in Texas, it got its nose art and markings as “Panchito”, from the 396 Bomb Squadron, 41st bomb Group, 7th A.F. In the early 1990’s Rick Korf bought the plane, and operated it with the National Warplane Museum in Geneseo, N.Y. Rick moved Panchito to the Valiant Air Command in Titusville, Florida in the late 1990’s. In 1997 “Panchito” was purchased by its current owner which is how it has made its way onto the air show circuit for aviation fans everywhere to enjoy.

For more information, visit http://www.delawareaviationmuseum.org/aircraft/b-25.html

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