OSCODA – In the seventh day of the B-25 re-paint project, the medium bomber, sat in a Kalitta Maintenance hangar, in Oscoda Michigan, stripped of its paint with skilled workers wet sanding the aluminum skin.
The blemishes of age were apparent and tradesmen applied their craft to smooth the surface of this 77-year-old combat veteran aircraft. In this state, one can see what North American Aviation workers saw when this plane, and many others like it, emerged from the Kansas City assembly plant in World War Two. They got it right.
“The history of American aviation, especially the World War II era, is about people more than airplanes,” said Kevin Walsh, President and CEO of Yankee Air Museum. “The precision with which this B-25 was built is visible in the fit and finish of every panel hand riveted together. The spirit of every American who proudly built, maintained or flew these planes deserves honor.”
Walsh described the meticulous research used in determining the colors and markings on the plane included more than 10 years of tracing war records by the Museum’s principal B-25 historian, Jerry Lester. Walsh applied his own research, confirming his findings through consultations with experts at Aircorps Aviation, a leading warbird restoration firm in Bemidji, Minn.
“Jerry Lester’s research included many conversations with the late Ezra Baer, the B-25 crew chief in the 489th Bomb squadron, in which our plane served,” explained Walsh. “Aircorps Aviation translated the World War Two paint codes to the updated, military specification numbers. They cut the paint masks for the insignias and even found actual North American Aviation blueprints showing the exact placement of the markings on the plane.”
Walsh expressed confidence in the compiled B-25D Mitchell Re-Paint Project document he submitted to Kalitta Maintenance and the paint crew, and just as important, in their desire to get it right. He said that while every plane may have subtle differences, perhaps in the wave where the olive drab topside meets the grey underside, the goal is to recreate a snapshot in time with 100 percent accuracy.
“Watching Arvis Alaron and his crew work on the plane is something I wish every aviation enthusiast could see. They care, they want to get it right,” said Walsh, continuing “and I think they will.”
Walsh and Alaron spent considerable time discussing the paint plans and reviewing the blueprints. Together with Project Manager Steve Leiter, and Structures Manager Greg Ruby, they planned the next steps of the project.
Greg Ruby said a conversion coating of Alodine, a chemical compound to penetrate aluminum and inhibit corrosion, would assure an even application of primer on the plane.
“Our crew will work with the B-25 Crew Chief, Angel Estrada to replace the cowling panels around the engines to assure a proper coating of primer. We also want a continuous blended line across the length of the engine nacelles and fuselage,” said Leiter. “These are some the details that make a noticeable difference.”
Ruby, Leiter and Alaron agreed the work would continue through Christmas Day, to get the project done, and get ready to receive the Kalitta Air fleet as it completes a busy holiday airfreight season.