Edited from a story by Mike Lambert, WarbirdsNews man on the scene
“It’s not how smart you are, it’s what you do with it.” -Wendy Zielem
For the past two years, WarbirdsNews has been covering the Warbirds of Glory Museum and the B-25 Mitchell they recovered from a sandbar near Fairbanks, Alaska. On June 4th, Warbirds of Glory held their first public fundraising event. It took place in Brighton High School’s Performing Arts Center, nearby the museum. They set the stage to reveal their larger-than-life adventure to the public, and as 7p.m. approached, the building slowly filled with people keen to see just what the museum’s directors, Todd Trainor and Patrick Mihalek had in store for them. And then the show began….
Todd Trainor took to the podium first to give a brief description of their achievements so far and where their goals lay. Patrick Mihalek then gave a brief speech before playing an episode of The Restorers for the audience which featured the remarkable story of their recovery operation two years ago in Alaska. The audience sat in rapt attention watching the film. At its conclusion, with the projection screen rising, Mihalek came back on stage and told of his desire to some day ask the restored B-25’s crew to “crank their engines”. And then it happened …. the roar of twin R-2600s cranking up pierced the air and lights flashed as the curtains raised to reveal the entire forward fuselage from Warbirds of Glory’s B-25 Mitchell. The crowd erupted in cheers, standing on their feet in awe at the ‘living’ history before them. But Warbirds of Glory has another important mission besides the Mitchell, and after the cheering died down, Mihalek started to explain.
Most of our readers know Warbirds of Glory is working to preserve history and honor the Greatest Generation, but their other major goal is to mentor local youth. When the curtains drew back to show the B-25’s fuselage, with the fog encircling its nose, all five youth-members of the current restoration team were on or inside the aircraft to take a bow before the audience. Mihalek explained his reasons for including the highschoolers, recalling his childhood dream of restoring a warbird and how he’s realized that dream with his career. He then handed the mic to each of the young men he’d brought into that dream, including one who has since joined the United States Air Force. Each of them shared a similar message, emphasizing how important working on the project with Trainor and Mihalek had been to them, and how much they appreciated having had that opportunity. They told of how the work had given them a sense of direction and purpose.
Then came the announcement about new museum membership options, intended to generate some much needed funding for the project’s continuation [click HERE to see how to join]. The level of funding will of course dictate how rapidly the Mitchell comes together, but it will still be a long-haul and demand a huge effort from all involved. The results will certainly be worth the effort though, and further stresses the importance of community, both local and national. We can all get involved!
The team is now Nome, Alaska to recover the remains of a second B-25J which will become a parts source [click HERE for our previous article on this B-25]. Mihalek announced they are searching for specific sponsorship amounts including $5,000 to fund one youth on their next Alaskan recovery mission, $6,500 for a set of core engines and $7,800 for a CNC upgrade for their milling machine to create a better teaching tool for their youth. If ever there were a “little guy” to cheer for in the warbird community, Warbirds of Glory certainly fits that bill, and this event solidified that point. Please click HERE to see how you can contribute to this worthy endeavor.
Only a couple of days after the fundraiser, Patrick Mihalek and a small cadre from the Warbirds of Glory Museum headed out to Nome, Alaska to recover the center section and other components from the wrecked, Russian lend-lease Mitchell. There are plenty of useful, restorable parts in the wreck which will eventually find their way into the Sandbar Mitchell. Warbirds of Glory will likely trade what remains so that one day the Russian wreck can also be reborn, though most likely as a static example. Sadly there are too many bullet holes in the wreck to resurrect her as a flyer without near total renewal with new-build material.