On Sunday May 15th, at a little before 2pm local time, the world’s last known surviving PBJ-1J Mitchell took to the skies over Camarillo, California again, following a decades-long, down-to-the-last-rivet restoration with the Southern California (SoCal) Wing of the Commemorative Air Force’s. As is typical on such test flights, a chase plane shadowed the Mitchell for much of the hour-long flight, sitting off her wingtip right up until the old bomber alit once more on terra firms. The flight seemed to go smoothly, and many supporters were on hand to see her soar again and cheer her home. A local tv news channel even covered the proceedings as well.
As many readers will know, the PBJ was the navalized version of the B-25 which served almost exclusively with the US Marine Corps during WWII. WarbirdsNews published an extensive article HERE on the lengthy restoration about a year ago, featuring dozens of terrific photographs by contributor Dan Newcomb. This PBJ came off the North American’s Kansas City production line as B-25J 44-30988 in early 1945. Following her conversion and acceptance by the Navy, the newly-minted naval patrol bomber became Bu.No.35857. The aircraft never saw combat, but was one of just a handful of PBJs to make it onto the civilian registry.
The ‘SoCal Wing’ has painted their Mitchell to represent PBJ-1J Bu.No. 35243. Marked as MB 11, this aircraft flew with Marine Bombing Squadron VMB-611 in the Pacific Theatre. Sadly, 1st. Lt. Doit L. Fish and his seven man crew were lost in MB 11 during a strike on the Kibawe Trail near Davao on May 30th, 1945. Interestingly, Lt.Fish’s son David is a volunteer with the CAF’s SoCal wing, so it seems more than appropriate that the PBJ serves as a tribute to his father’s crew, as a way of memorializing all those Marines who flew the Mitchell.
With the PBJ flying once more, she will undoubtedly become a regular performer on the air show circuit. WarbirdsNews wishes to offer the SoCal Wing volunteers our heartfelt appreciation for persevering with such dedication on this difficult project and that the aircraft enjoys many years of successful flying ahead!
Many thanks to AirshowVid.com for providing the images!