Central Albertans are invited to fly in a piece of history this week.
Red Deer Airport is home to a vintage B-25 Mitchell bomber airplane through Sunday, August 13.
The plane restored by the Arizona Commemorative Air Force Museum flew its maiden flight in August 1940. It played an important part in 1942 in Tokyo with the Doolittle Raiders and went on to fly 15 combat missions over Italy.
There were 9,984 of the bombers produced. Only 34 remain operational in retired status today.
A WWII veteran went on the first flight out of the Red Deer Airport on Monday.
Walter Burchnall graduated as a pilot and went on to do a tour of operations in Burma.
“There were just about as many fatals as there were in the Korean war,” said Burchnall about his time spent in Burma.
“We were in support of British 14th armory as they were pushing the Japanese down out of Burma. Our tour was 700 hours or 215 sorties or whichever came first and I met both criteria at 703 hours and the 215.”
After the war he said he “was out for five years” before making the choice to return to active duty for another 18+ years.
Burchnall said they were responsible for dropping supplies either from the air or at the one airstrip “that was somewhat secure.”
“For the drops they wanted accuracy. They didn’t want the supplies to drop into the wrong hands.”
In January of 1945, Burchnall said his squadron got shot at by Japanese fighters. The squadron then went on to work at night landing and offloading supplies.
During his time there he said they did lose some aircraft, some due to the weather during monsoon season and the incredible thunderstorms that they would have to fly through.
“We tried to pick holes through light spots in between the worst of it.”
One of the lucky ones, Burchnall served just over 12,000 hours and remained accident free during that time. He said during the war if they had a drop to do it, they just did it.
“I enjoyed it very much, but it was hard on the wife.”
Burchnall said he has only ever flown in one B-25 Mitchell before when he “hitch hiked” a ride just to get from point A to point B. “I wasn’t impressed.”
Monday’s flight saw Burchnall sitting in the flight deck of the plane and he said he still gets nervous to this day.
“[The flight today] was okay, fine. I was watching instruments seeing what winds boosting RPMS and airspeed and manifold pressure etcetera etcetera.”
Flights are available to the public with the option to sit in the flight deck (front) or in the rear of the plane.
For more information or to book a flight on the B-25 Mitchell while it is at the Red Deer Airport visit here.
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