Photo by Phil Buckley

Photo by Phil Buckley

By Phil Buckley

Reevers Warbirds, in Adelaide, Australia, moved its NAA B-25J Mitchell s/n 44-31508 from its long term storage in Port Adelaide to a new secure hangar at Parafield Airport in northern Adelaide over several weeks in October 2016. The aircraft fuselage, wings, engines, tail and other components were transported by Reevers using a Ute and for the larger sections a truck was hired. The first major airframe repair task that Reevers undertook was another clean-up of the interior and exterior of the fuselage.

Warbirds News readers might remember the story of “Lucky Lady.” For more than a decade, a forlorn B-25J Mitchell 44-31508 has sat more or less abandoned and exposed to nature at an airfield in Franklin, Virginia. Many have tried in vain to do something positive to help the aircraft, but a complicated legal dispute has made doing so next to impossible for a very long time. And so the tired bomber has sat, slowly returning to the elements as the squabbling continued. Happily though, an Australian husband and wife team, whose warbird collection is known mysteriously as Reevers, has stepped in to give the tired warhorse, known ironically as “Lucky Lady.“ Click HERE to read our first article.

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The noseart “Lucky Lady” was removed and by November, Reevers had the forward and mid fuselage and inner wing sections all rejoined so that the bomber could stand on its landing gear again. By mid-January 2017, the right hand engine has been installed with work progressing on the reattachment of the left engine as well as the rear fuselage and tail. Reevers is looking to fit out the cockpit with necessary components along with sourcing of new Perspex to replace that currently installed in the nose and cockpit areas.

Reevers B-25J Mitchell _By Phil Buckley16

Photo by Phil Buckley

Reevers plans to repaint the aircraft in the colors worn by the Netherlands East Indies Air Force while operated by the Dutch 18 Squadron B-25 Mitchells, which flew out of Australia during WW2. Reevers wants to have the aircraft completed by early April 2017, to showcase the aircraft for a special invitation event, where surviving veterans from 18 Squadron and their families, dignitaries, and current military members from both Holland and Australia, as well as media may attend.

Photo by Phil Buckley

Photo by Phil Buckley

Reenactors are scheduled to attend the event to add a flavor of period era dressed aircrew. This will be followed on the Sunday 9th April 2017 with a general public open day for the people of Adelaide and others who may wish to visit from around the world to come view the vintage bomber.

7 Comments

  1. Graham Baker says:

    Hi,
    I’m sure you’re all aware of her history filming in the U.K!?

    44-31508 was airworthy at Ocala, FL as N6578D, but is now missing an engine and is severely rusted.
    Was the B-25 that was the camera ship for the making of the film *Battle of Britain* in 1968.
    Cheers

  2. N6578D was one of the Camera Planes for the filming. The Plane was flown to Caldwell Airport in New Jersey where it was left to rot for many years. Tom Riley lived in Caldwell NJ at that time and knew my Brother Ray and I were looking for a Warbird. We found two more investors, Bob Reid and Frank Robinson and formed a Corporation (25th Bomber Group, Inc.)to buy the B25 from Tom.
    The Plane was a basket case…All glass was broken, Seats Missing, no instrument panel, Bomb Bay doors and all hatches missing. Fuel caps had been removed years ago…The fuel and oil tanks were now home to squirrels and rats. Cables had been cut and engines seized up. The sale agreement with Tom was that he would make the Plane capable to flown to Ft. Lauderdale Florida.
    He started on work on the Engines…Had to replace 13 cylinders. As he was working , parts would appear sometime during the night. The Entry Hatches then the Bomb Bay Doors, escape hatches, etc.
    We found a Glass Nose in Chino, seats in NY and scrounged for the rest of the parts that were needed. Tom built the Instrument panel from scratch. Put new tires on, fired up the engines and my Brother Ray and Frank Robinson flew it to Ft. Lauderdale, Frank was a Delta L1011 pilot at that time and was an instructor for B-25’s during the end of WWII.
    Made it to Florida with no problems. Tom had delivered as promised!
    Plane was put into a hanger at FXE completely disassembled. All corrosion issues were fixed. The cockpit ribs were all replaced with Stainless Steel that had to be handcrafted. All glass was replaced including the windshield that was formed using LEXAN. All fuel, oil hydraulic and electrical lines were replaced. Carbs rebuilt, new Brakes, Tires, Bomb Bay Racks and 500lb Bombs, two fixed and one flexible 50 cal. in Nose. Two 50’s ea in tail and Top Turret.
    At that time , Eastern Airlines was stripping the paint off their planes to save weight/fuel. We hired their crew to strip the B-25. We hand polished for months…BENDIX was breaking ground for a new Avionics facility at FXE and installed their latest Radio/Nav. equipment for a few low pass’s with the Bomb Bays open and a small BENDX logo on the plane.
    Plane was named “Chapter XI” since it almost broke us.
    Won best Bomber at both Oshkosh and Lakeland Sun & Fun shows. Flew to many Military Open houses, airshows etc for many years.
    Have many pictures and VCR tapes of the restoration and air shows.
    Cannot believe how this once Beautiful & Proud aircraft was again left to rot.

    • Hello Bob, I sure remember the plane. I am a good friend of Ray Farewell, he did a lot of work on the plane at ft laud exe. I went to a lot of the shows, one in particular was the Valiant air command in Titusville in the 80s. still have photos. Hope the down under guys restore her like I remember..
      take care
      Bob King

    • Joe Lonzello says:

      What a great story ! I have photos of plane at Caldwell Airport. During one visit to see it we were sitting in cockpit when a blimp flew over and landed. We jumped out and ran across runway as a plane was ready to take off. Security grabbed us before we got to the blimp and we were escorted to the gate !

  3. Joe Lonzello says:

    I have a photo of this B-25 I took in the 1970’s at Caldwell Airport…We use to climb onboard and sit at the controls…. .

  4. I fondly recall playing inside this B-25 back in the ’70s when it was parked in the grass at Caldwell/Curtis Wright Airport.

  5. I believe my dear friend John Souther helped restore this plane… Does anyone on this forum remember him?
    I even painted a brown leather jacket with this plane’s nose art on the back for him.
    I’m so glad to have found this site.
    Any info and updates are appreciated.
    M

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