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Tags: Carbon County, Commemorative Air Force, Flying Legends of Victory Tour, Maid in the Shade, Rawlins
By David Louis
RAWLINS — On Monday, with the sun shining near 12 o’clock high, residents of Rawlins may notice an iconic silhouette of a warbird from a bygone era shimmering in the afternoon sky.
As part of its 2016 Flying Legends of Victory Tour, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) — Arizona Wing — has scheduled a weeklong stopover at Harvey Field for “Maid in the Shade,” a historic B-25 Mitchell bomber.
Tours of combat air-vet, with 15 missions flown during WWII, are being offered between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday with a $5 donation requested.
For the more adventurous, those who have dreamed of strapping in and taking to flight in a vintage bomber, tickets are available to live the dream. The cost for the once-in-a-lifetime chance of riding along in a B-25 is $395 or $650 for the opportunity to ride in the bombardier seat where all that stands before you and the open air is a clear windscreen.
Tickets for the living history flights can be pre-booked at email@example.com or at the plane during tour hours.
Ed Hunter, tour coordinator for the Arizona Wing of the Dallas-based Commemorative Air Force has began working locally to setup this return trip to Rawlins during this year’s cross country tour.
“We were here about four years ago,” Hunter said.
“The importance of this plane is to keep the memory alive of World War II and all of the men who flew and fought during the war and also not to lose sight of the fact that our independence, liberty and freedom is dedicated to all of these individuals. We fly to keep everyone informed on the sacrifices made.”
The CAF is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization. The CAF is dedicated to the preservation of the WWII aircraft inclusive of the years from 1939 to 1945.
All fees, donations or revenue collected by Airbase Arizona support the tour, maintenance and overhead costs incurred by operating the aircraft and associated cost of touring the aircraft.
Maid in the Shade is one of two bombers in the wings arsenal of touring planes.
Named after Gen. Billy Mitchell, the Army Air Corps’ most famous figure of the 1920s and 1930s, the North American B-25 proved to be one of the best American weapons of World War II.
The Mitchell sported two Wright R-2600 “Cyclone” radials with 1,850-horse power each at takeoff.
While it was used for high-and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol and as a fighter, its primary armament was a dozen .50 caliber machine guns and a carrying capacity of 6,000 pounds of bombs.
The Mitchell was distinguished as the aircraft that completed the historic raid over Tokyo in April 1942.
Subsequently, it saw duty in every combat area being flown by the Dutch, British, Chinese, Russians and Australians in addition to U.S. forces. Although the airplane was originally intended for level bombing from medium altitudes, it was used extensively in the Pacific area for bombing Japanese airfields from treetop level and for strafing and skip bombing enemy shipping.
“It’s an amazing aircraft,” Hunter said. “It’s an absolute rabbit. It just shoots right up as opposed to our B-17 Sentimental Journey. We call our B-17 a Cadillac and we call the B-25 a Corvette.”
Arron Durst, Rawlins Airport Board member, can hardly wait for Maid in the Shade’s arrival.
“I think this is fantastic. I’m very excited. And, if this is a success it could open the door for us to do something even bigger. We might actually be able to do something like an air show with multiple warbirds. This is the start of trying to build something like that,” Durst said.
“On a personal level I’m beyond excited. I’ve never had a chance to be up close to an airplane like this.”