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B-25s for a New Generation
Warbirds of Glory restoring recovered aircraft and educating youth about warbird restoration
By Frederick A. Johnsen
July 28, 2018 - They’ve been at it for five years, and results are starting to show. They made a splash with their difficult recovery of a B-25 air tanker from a sandbar in Alaska’s bush country, and now the group that rallied around the B-25 they christened the Sandbar Mitchell is back at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 with two B-25 front ends and a plan for a museum and education center.
The museum will be called the Warbirds of Glory Museum. The ongoing education program of the group is the Kittyhawk Academy. The planned location is the Livingston County Spencer J. Hardy Airport in Howell, Michigan, about 40 minutes from the Detroit metropolitan area.
In the Warbirds area, the group is showing recognizable B-25 sections including the forward fuselage of a B-25J intended for the Soviet Union, and recovered near Nome, where it came to rest during World War II.
Patrick Mihalek, EAA 529904, is the indefatigable director of the project. He’s turned a childhood passion for aviation into his life’s work. He’s secured the remains of three B-25s in various states of disrepair and damage, plus spare parts along the way. Out of this, the plan is to mix and match parts to refurbish one B-25 as a flying warbird, with a second static display example.
Right now, the organization’s Kittyhawk Academy is an after-hours effort to interest students as young as 12 in aviation and history, and equip them to be the next generation of warbird restorers and operators. Academy director Todd Trainor, EAA1379, said the “vast majority” of current students come from a 10-mile radius of their current location in Brighton, Michigan.
As the organization continues to gain momentum, a bigger facility with good public access dictates a relocation to a place like the Livingston airport. The group forecasts a cost of $1.8 million to establish its dream facility. It’s big enough to hold a B-17 yet modest enough to show good stewardship of funds. Trainor said the group is just beginning its quest for monetary donations and grants to support the efforts of the nonprofit Warbirds of Glory Museum.
For a nascent museum group, merely surviving from year to year adds to their credibility. Their recovery and restoration efforts attest to their capabilities and dedication. Todd said three warbird supporters have noticed the group’s progress and have made cash donations “in the five-figure area.”
Patrick said he sees the effort as being on the cusp of two complementary movements in aviation. One is the perceived need for more education in aviation trades generally, and the other is the need to ensure future generations will have the specific skills and interests to keep warbirds flying when current operators pass from the scene.
The group receives donations of cash and material from around the country as more and more people learn of the effort. To learn more, visit the museum’s website at www.WarbirdsOfGlory.org.
While Warbirds of Glory might not be a household name just yet, it will be if the enthusiasm of Patrick and Todd can pull it off. “If you put your mind and determination into it you can accomplish anything,” Patrick said.