“Maid in the Shade” will be in Fort Smith this week through July 18 as part of the Flying Legends Victory Tour.
The B-25J Mitchell was one of the first bombers used by the US military. The aircraft takes its name from General Billy Mitchell, considered the pioneer of strategic bombing.
“Maid in the Shade” completed 15 combat missions. During one of its missions, the plane sank eight ships and downed five planes. The aircraft served wartime with the 319th Bomb Group, 437th Squadron at Serragia Air Base, Corsica.
The low-altitude strafing and the aircraft’s agility made it suitable for this type of mission. On a mission, the aircraft would typically have five to six crew members on board – bomber, pilot, co-pilot, flight crew chief and tail gunner.
“Maid in the Shade” is currently one of 34 B-25J Mitchell still in flight. Jim Dear, a flight loader, said the B-25J Mitchell’s that are still there are used for firefighting, insecticide spraying and as “flying museums”.
To honor the veterans, the plane has their signatures inside. Rosie the Riveters, the women who helped make the plane, also have their signatures inside.
As a volunteer, Dear has seen the exhibit spark interest in the avionics field.
“It works really well, educationally, for parents to bring their kids so that they can actually see the real world problems that we have to solve in math, in engineering, in technology, so it’s a bit of where we come from in terms of recruiting, and because we see a lot of things where people bring their kids, then it instills an interest in avionics and becoming a pilot, ”Dear said.
To check availability, cost, and to book a Maid in the Shade tour, visit www.azcaf.org/plane/b-25j-mitchell/. The plane is located at 5300 Airport Blvd. at Tac Air.
Dear explained that donations made to the Commemorative Air Force, the organization that organizes the Flying Legends Victory Tour, will be used for the maintenance of the aircraft.
The Flying Legends Victory Tour has traveled to over 40 cities in the United States and Canada during their 30+ years.
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