The Yankee Air Museum’s B-25D Mitchell 43-3634, long known as Yankee Warrior, has recently undergone refinishing into the original colors worn when she emerged from the North American Aviation assembly plant in Kansas City 77 years ago. The airplane now reflects her true role in America’s history as a combat veteran flying out of Corsica in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.
Kalitta Air, a worldwide leader in specialized, on-demand airfreight services agreed to restore the exterior finish of the Yankee Air Museum’s B-25 Mitchell bomber. Coincidentally both organizations are based at Willow Run Airport in Michigan.
“Kalitta Air and Kalitta Maintenance are making a fantastic contribution to aviation history,” exclaimed Kevin Walsh, President and CEO of Yankee Air Museum. “For years, our B-25 has flown in its polished, natural aluminum skin, bearing the name Yankee Warrior. It is beautiful, but inaccurate and does not honor its past. We are very excited to see this World War Two aircraft restored to its original markings.”
In 1943, when B-25D Mitchell 43-3634 left the North American Aviation factory in Kansas City, it was painted Olive Drab with Neutral Grey underside. This was the paint scheme for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. Based in Corsica, the airplane flew eight missions with the 57th Bomb Wing, 340th Bombardment Group, 489th Bomb Squadron against high value targets in Italy. Yankee Air Museum’s B-25 plane flew missions in April 1944 but by May 26th, 1944, she returned to the United States. In October 1944, the airplane transferred to the Royal Canadian Air Force where she served as a trainer until 1961. The Canadian government sold her for salvage soon after, but she was one of the lucky ones to make it into civilian ownership. The Mitchell changed hands a number of times prior to the Yankee Air Museum’s acquisition in 1987. The Museum restored the aircraft’s mechanical components as well as adding some military features such as a top turret, Plexiglas nose, replica guns, insignias and many other features.
Conrad “Connie” Kalitta, Owner/CEO and Pete Sanderlin, Chief Operating Officer for Kalitta, are accomplished aviators who value aviation history. “They didn’t hesitate to commit to this project and no one can imagine how much we appreciate their help,” said Walsh.
“Vintage B-25 Mitchell bombers with combat experience, still flying today, are exceptionally rare,” said Connie Kalitta. “We are very happy to help. My time in aviation has been remarkable and it’s really great to be involved with this project and make a difference.”
“The Kalitta Air livery is contemporary, very sharp and well recognized,” said Pete Sanderlin. “Our maintenance and paint crews are the very best and they keep our fleet looking great. The B-25 project is different and our team is very enthused to apply their artistry to it.”
“It looks fantastic,” said Kevin Walsh, President and CEO of Yankee Air Museum. “I am very anxious to see it outdoors, in natural light. The Kalitta Air team has delivered a remarkable, authentic paint job and just like in World War Two, some of the last official paint to go on the plane are the ‘9C’ squadron identification markings on the tail,” said Walsh.
Over the past couple of weeks the museum’s mechanics have balanced the elevators, reinstalled them and completed a series of mechanical inspections. “Our B-25 did not have any nose art, or a name when it was in the war,” said Walsh. “We will name it and get an artist to paint period correct nose art later this year.”
Walsh said the B-25 will honor history, and fly to air shows this summer to educate people about the gallantry of our Greatest Generation.
“Yankee Air Museum salutes Conrad “Connie” Kalitta with great appreciation and thanks everyone at Kalitta Air for making this project possible,” concluded Walsh.
The B-25 repainting project could not have been accomplished without a crew of museum volunteers who traveled to Oscoda, spent a few overnights, and took time away from their families this holiday season. Like many non-profit organizations, Yankee Air Museum could not fulfill its mission without the time, skills and labor donated to it by volunteers. With heartfelt appreciation, these B-25 project members are recognized: Paul Hakala, Chief of Maintenance; Angel Estrada, B-25 Crew Chief; and volunteers: Grant Schwartz, Darrel Bazman, Brian Gawronski, Rich Koski, Nick Consiglio, Tim Wedig, Eric Esckelson, Luke Noble, Bob Bailey, Joe Provost, Gene Wedekemper, Justin Walsh and Patrick Trevas. The B-25 pilots for this mission, flying without heat in the cockpit: Mike Vetter and Delane Buttacavoli.
About Yankee Air Museum: Established in 1981 the Yankee Air Museum is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization. The Yankee Air Museum dedicates itself to educating individuals through the history of American aeronautics, aerospace industry and its associated technologies while inspiring generations through personal experiences to instill pride in our national accomplishments. Yankee Air Museum, located at 47884 D Street, Belleville, Michigan on the grounds of historic Willow Run Airport. Visit www.yankeeairmuseum.org to discover more or call 734-483-4030.
About Kalitta Air: Kalitta Air is a Michigan Limited Liability Company owned solely by Conrad “Connie” Kalitta. Mr. Kalitta is the renowned NHRA champion drag racer and team owner. He has a lifetime of experience in the airline industry dating back to 1967 when he piloted a twin engine Cessna 310 and began transporting parts for the automotive industry. In 2018, Mr. Kalitta received the prestigious Ronald N. Priddy NACA-CRAF Partners in Airlift Medal (“Priddy Medal”) presented by the National Air Carrier Association. In April 2019, Mr. Kalitta was enshrined into the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame.
Kalitta Air began service in November 2000 with three Boeing 747 aircraft and the fleet has grown to a present total of 24 B747 freighters, nine B767 freighters and five B777 freighters. Capable of air express delivery of virtually any type of freight, the company provides scheduled or on-demand charter service for customers in the United States and around the world. Kalitta Air is committed to providing customers with the most cost effective and complete on-demand air cargo services available in the industry. Whether you are shipping super-heavy machinery, delicate medical equipment or perishable produce and even livestock, Kalitta Air provides the kind of individualized care and service that’s won the respect and trust of customers around the world. For more information visit the www.kalittaair.com website