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Chapters Join Forces to Restore B-25
By David Leiting Jr., EAA Lifetime 579157, Chapter Outreach Specialist
April 2017 - Over the past few years, members of EAA Chapter 237 of Blaine, Minnesota, have been volunteering their time in EAA’s Kermit Weeks Flight Operations Center. Traditionally, members arrived in Oshkosh the week prior to convention to assist with work that needed to be done on the B-17 and Ford Tri-Motor for the airplanes’ busy week of flying. Members would also assist with the moving of display aircraft around Pioneer Airport.
At AirVenture 2014, Kirk Fjetland, president of EAA Chapter 237, was towing EAA’s B-25 to its parking spot for the week when he asked John Hopkins, EAA’s manager of aircraft maintenance, whether or not the aircraft would ever fly again. Four months later Kirk’s phone rang; it was John. “We’ve moved the B-25 into the Weeks Hangar. Come on over and get started!”
During the winter of 2014, Chapter 237 began its work on the aircraft. Since that first work party, the chapter completed a restoration of the B-25’s nose section at its own facilities, as well as many tasks at the Kermit Weeks center. The chapter typically spends one weekend per month working on the aircraft in Oshkosh. Thanks to the work parties, the chapter is now enjoying a higher level of excitement and involvement.
After noticing how enjoyable and successful the work parties were for the chapter, the idea was proposed to open up the work parties to any interested EAA chapter. These work parties had the elements to satisfy any EAA member’s aviation appetite.
Our chapter community is a melting pot of EAAers, each with a special area of interest that draws them into the chapter and entices them to make the annual trek to Oshkosh. For many, it is the opportunity to build their own aircraft, to exercise their craftsmanship. Others find pleasure in stepping back in time to the simpler days of aviation, when there were no magenta lines to guide pilots to their destinations. Some enjoy the rumble of a warbird as it passes overhead in tribute to those from the greatest generation. However, I would be remiss to forget one of the biggest reasons EAAers keep returning, and that is the wonderful sense of community that our members feel amongst our chapters or when standing alongside a fellow EAAer on the flightline.
Whatever one’s interests may be, the EAA B-25 work parties are the perfect getaway for any EAAer. Those who enjoy the technical side of EAA are able to jump right in and get hands-on with a one-of-a-kind aircraft. Those who enjoy the simpler era of aviation are able to work with 1940s technology and reminisce on the days that these aircraft rolled off the assembly lines by the tens of thousands. As for the warbird enthusiasts, they are given the ability to contribute to the Warbirds of America mission by keeping this B-25 flying!
Aside from the immense gratification that one can gain from working on such a historical aircraft, there is of course the sense of comradery that is built during a weekend spent in Oshkosh, not only within your chapter but also with members from around the country.
After coming to the realization that these work parties are a microcosm of the EAA spirit, it was confirmed that they would be opened to chapter members from across the globe. The first B-25 restoration work party welcomed chapter members to Oshkosh on March 16, 2017. Immediately upon arriving in Oshkosh, the attendees were immersed into the Oshkosh experience.
Mikey McBryan, general manager of Buffalo Airways, which was featured on the television show Ice Pilots NWT, joined attendees for a dinner and social hour. Following the meet and greet, the group moved over to the EAA Aviation Museum to attend a special presentation by Mikey. Following the presentation, they experienced a number of behind-the-ropes tours of museum aircraft, which included cockpit climbs into unique aircraft such as the de Havilland Mosquito.
Members who got to work early Friday morning spent the day removing paint, riveting panels, and rigging control cables. No matter what the skill level, there was a job for everyone!
Attendees spent the weekend in EAA’s Air Academy Lodge and were treated to home-cooked meals by EAA’s professional culinary team. Kirk always tells attendees to bring “a hearty appetite, because you won’t be going home hungry!”
Saturday brought another full day of work, but the group was treated to a special surprise. The gas-powered nose gun replica was complete and ready for test firing. The look of the machine gun and sound of the rounds will give the completed aircraft an even more authentic feel.
As the weekend wound down, chapter members headed for home with full stomachs and plenty of great EAA memories. In total, members from nine chapters gathered to take part in the first B-25 restoration work party.
If your chapter is interested in learning more about EAA’s B-25 and how you can take part in a restoration work party, click here! Upcoming work parties are scheduled for May 19-20 and June 9-10.