media day for the Camarillo Airshow, members of the press and sponsors
of the show are presented with an opportunity to fly along in various
aircraft. The staff for the Camarillo show selected a good variety for
the media flights. Having grown up in Milwaukee, not far from Mitchell
Field and being distantly related to one of the crewmen on the
Doolittle Raid, my choice was obvious.
B-25 Mitchell "Executive Sweet"
some of the other aircraft on the ramp were being moved, I took some
pictures of this historic bomber from the ground. This B-25 was built
by North American in 1944 and is a TB-25N. The TB-25 was a trainer
version to allow crew members to train in the type. This one has been
put into the B-25J configuration. It is owned and maintained by the
American Aeronautical Foundation. The aircraft is based at Camarillo
We were given a quick pre-flight
briefing about where to sit for take-off and landing, where we could go
in the aircraft, etc. Basically, we had free access to everywhere in
the aircraft once we got airborne with the only restrictions of how
many people in the nose and in the tail at a time. We strapped in and
ready for engine start and take-off. Anyone who has stood near a B-25
knows how loud those Wright Cyclone Radial
engines are. I was basically sitting right between them as our crew
went through their pre-flight checklist.
The crew performs the pre-flight
As the engines roared to life, it
was obvious that talking on this flight was not an option! Not only
could you hear them, but you could feel the power through the airframe
as the props churned the air, ready to give flight. The noise and
vibration were something I expected, and in some ways, it was
exhilarating. As they engines warmed up, I took it all in, feeling the
history. I know thousands of young men flew in these during WWII. It
was because of them that we were able to experience this flight today,
and I was humbled and grateful. We taxied out to the runway and took
off. Once the crew raised the gear and gained a little altitude, we
were cleared to get up from our seats and move around.
Crawling through the tunnel to the
To get to the nose of the aircraft, you
have to crawl through a tunnel from underneath the cockpit. It's a bit
of a squeeze, even for an average sized guy like me. This is where the
bombardier would be for missions. He was also the gunner for the front
of the aircraft. In addition to firing the .50 caliber machine gun, he
would also operate the bombsight. This one is the famed Norden
The rear sight on the .50 caliber
The famous Norden bombsight.
View from the front "greenhouse" of
One of the Wright Cyclone radial
I left the nose of the airplane to give
someone else a chance to see the view while I headed towards the back.
To get over the bomb bay, you have to go over it, unlike the B-17 and
B-24 that have a walkway in the middle. The crawl space is actually
bigger in this aircraft than in the B-25s that were operational. It's a
bit of a squeeze to get through.
The crawlspace over the bomb bay. The B-25
is not a place for the claustrophobic.
As I made my way aft, we approached the
Pacific Ocean and headed south along the coast. I looked out the
porthole window on the side of the airplane and watched the ocean below
and the coast to our left. I thought about the crews of the Doolittle
raid, coming in from the ocean toward the coast of Japan and
uncertainty. Seeing the boats in the water added to those thoughts. The
Japanese had picket boats in the waters to watch for enemy ships and
Our shadow in the water.
I made my way back to the
tail gunner's position to experience the tail gunner's perspective. The
view is pretty amazing back there. There is very little to obstruct
your view. The rear gunner controlled 2 .50 caliber machine guns using
a computing gun sight The seat is remarkably similar to a bicycle seat.
The rear gunner's gun sight.
What a view as we turn back
The rear gunner's twin .50 caliber
As I sat back and enjoyed
the view, I could see us approaching Point Mugu Naval Air Station. I
spotted a bogie on our tail, low and fast. He was climbing towards us.
Had that been a Messerschmitt or a Zero, it would have been my job to
try and blast it out of the sky. As the bogie grew closer, I recognized
the shape of an F-18 Hornet. The amusing part was that the F-18 had a
red star on the tail. This was an aggressor aircraft fron Navy Squadron
VX-30 "Bloodhounds". He passed by down our right side. It looked like
he was flying by to say hello. Good thing too, we would have been no
match for a modern Naval fighter.
Point Mugu NAS (Naval Air Station).
Our bogie, an F-18 Hornet. Notice
the red star and the BH on the tail. The BH is for the Bloodhounds, the
nickname of VX-30, based at Point Mugu.
Ventura Harbor and Harbor Town.
Our flight was on the leg
home. I made my way to the middle of the airplane and watched out the
porthole window with one of the crew. Everyone aboard seemed lost in
their own thoughts, myself included. What an awesome experience! While
it was fun and exciting, I couldn't help but think about the many young
men who fought from these planes. While we had a nice leisurely time of
it, 60 plus years ago, those young men were fighting and dying in
airplanes like this one. My hat goes off to those brave young men.
The CAF ramp at Camarillo airport.
Just to the right of te CAF ramp is the home to Executive Sweet,
next to the green and brown airplane.
As we passed the tower and turned
into the pattern, I felt a rush of air and the landing gear starting to
drop down. That was my cue to return to my seat and get my seatbelt on.
I sat back and enjoyed what was left of our time in the sky. We landed
at Camarillo and taxied to the parking spot for Executive Sweet. I want
to thank the crew of Executive Sweet for a great experience! I also
want to thank all of the folks at the American Aeronautical Foundation
for making this airplane available for the media flight. One last
thanks goes out to all the people of the EAA and their friends that put
on the show.
Our pilot and copilot for the
flight. Thanks guys!
"Executive Sweet" performing at the show a couple of days later.
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