Dave Diamond Goes For A Ride In A B-25 Bomber – Sheppard Air Show 2011
I love air shows. Especially when I get to go up into the wild blue yonder in a flying piece of American military history.
While the theme of this year's Open House and Air Show at Sheppard Air Force Base is a "Salute To Warriors" I would like to add to that a salute to the Commemorative Air Force members and supporters who restore, maintain and fly several aircraft from American military history. Over the years I've been fascinated by the static displays they've had at various air shows and watched the fly overs. This year I got to strap in and go for a ride in the Yellow Rose, a B-25 bomber from World War II.
According to Wikipedia, the B-25 Mitchell (Named after U.S. military aviation pioneer General Billy Mitchell) was medium range bomber that was used in every theater during World War II and was the aircraft that Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle chose for his bombing missions over Tokyo. That was just four months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, so the B-25 was a major player in WWII from the very beginning.
It has been a part of the Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force arsenal, and with it's numerous machine guns, was used for strafing runs in addition to bombing missions. It has also been used by various other countries including Australia, the Netherlands, China, Russia, Brazil and France.
The Yellow Rose, the airplane I got a chance to ride in, was built in Kansas and eventually found its way to the C.A.F. They're based in Midland, Texas, by the way, and have an amazing museum that you can tour. If you go, be prepared to spend a lot of time there. I got the "quick tour" a couple years ago. We spent about two hours, but I could have spent two days. Their collection of fuselage art from WWII aircraft, uniforms, artifacts and various stories and histories of this monumental period of American history is astounding.
Here is a video on the history of the B-25 Mitchell and its role in the bombing of Tokyo in 1942.
My B-25 ride started from Kickapoo Airport where Sheppard Air Force Base was holding an appreciation event for sponsors of the show. The flight crew made sure that veryone was safely strapped into our seats, we got clearance from the tower to take off, the pilots opened the throttles on both engines and we accelerated quickly down the runway. By my count we were airborne in about 15 or 20 seconds.
Once in the air, we were free to move about the aircraft with each person taking their turn at the side machine gunner positions, looking out through the upper turret, even crawling our way up front to the nose machine gun position. This is where the bombardier would have been on bombing runs.
As we enjoy the Sheppard Air Force Base Open House and Air Show this weekend, remember to give a nod to the men and women who wear, and have worn, the uniform of any branch of military service for our great nation. It is because of their dedication and sacrifice that we enjoy the freedoms we have today.
Thank you, Sheppard Air Force Base, for inviting us out for the weekend. And thank you, Commemorative Air Force, for giving me the opportunity to ride in a piece of American history.