At the Southern California Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, where I’ve been Finance Officer for the past two and a half years, our longest ongoing project has been the restoration of our PBJ.
The PBJ looks like a B-25 bomber, but it is in fact a different bird. The Marines took the B-25 model and made some significant changes, particularly in adding more armament, and turned it into a low-level attack bomber. This Marine variant on the B-25 was designated the PBJ.
Something like 800 of these were flown during WWII and afterward. Before this weekend, there were zero of them still flying. You may increment that number by one.
It’s been 23 years since this plane last flew. We had an event open to the public for the occasion, and senior staff from CAF Headquarters in Dallas came in for the celebration.
It was a triumph.
Yesterday she was prepped and ready to go.
Two big engines that roar and drip oil and blow smoke the way big radial engines are supposed to!
Yes, we do have an authentic Norden bombsight up there in the nose. Isn’t that where they’re supposed to be?
Pre-flight this morning, part of the CAF SoCal brain trust on the left (Steve Barber and Ron Missildine), one of today’s pilots (Dana Dorsey) with his back to us, and Steve Brown, President/CEO of the Commemorative Air Force.
The photographers, news folks, and social media savants all getting in their pre-flight photos of the flight crew.
She started up and took off like a champion. She looked freakin’ AMAZING in flight after all of that work by so many people.
CAF Headquarters put together a nice video of the takeoff and landing here.
Marc Russell was the crew chief who has spearheaded the restoration for many years. After the flight he was being interviewed by the local CBS affiliate. I’m only surprised that he was able to not be grinning from ear to ear for a few seconds.
Then they let the KCBS/KCAL reporter up into the co-pilot’s seat to finish his report. You can see that news report here.
It was a very long, but very successful weekend. Congratulations to Marc, everyone in his crew, and everyone who has worked on this glorious plane for the last twenty-three years.
Give it a few weeks for some training and shakedown flights and you’ll start seeing her at West Coast airshows. Give it a few months and you’ll be able to buy a ride in her, just like you can in several of our other planes. (Hey, I’m the Finance Officer! If you want me to be less insane than normal, you want us to sell lots of rides!)