SoCal's PBJ Flies After 23 Years
On Sunday May 15, 2016, just before 2 p.m. local time, the world's last known surviving PBJ-1J Mitchell took to the skies over Camarillo, California. The return to flight followed a decades-long, down-to-the-last-rivet restoration by the CAF's Southern California (SoCal) Wing. The flight went smoothly and many supporters were on hand to see her soar again and cheer her home.
The PBJ was the Navy version of the B-25 and served almost exclusively with the US Marine Corps during WWII. WarbirdsNews published an extensive article HERE on the lengthy restoration, featuring dozens of photographs by contributor Dan Newcomb. This PBJ came off the North American's Kansas City production line as B-25J, 44-30988, in early 1945. Following conversion and acceptance by the Navy, the newly-minted naval patrol bomber became Bu.No.35857. The aircraft never saw combat, and is one of a handful of PBJs to make it onto the civilian registry.
The SoCal Wing painted the airplane to represent PBJ-1J, Bu.No. 35243. Marked as MB 11, the aircraft flew with Marine Bombing Squadron VMB-611 in the Pacific Theater. Sadly, 1st. Lt. Doit L. Fish and his seven man crew were lost in MB 11 during a strike on the Kibawe Trail near Davao on May 30, 1945. Lt. Fish's son, David, is a volunteer with the Wing, so it seems more than appropriate that the PBJ serves as a tribute to his father's crew and all the Marines who flew the PBJ.
CAF President Stephan C. Brown said “I am happy for the Southern California Wing’s members, this has been an ongoing project for more than two decades and it’s great to see their hard work pay off.” Brown attended the PBJ’s first flight and added, “This is what the CAF mission is about, honoring military aviation and inspiring others to work hard and accomplish their goals.”
With the PBJ flying once more, she will undoubtedly become a regular performer on the air show circuit. The CAF Headquarters wishes to offer the SoCal Wing volunteers our heartfelt appreciation for persevering with such dedication on this difficult project and that the aircraft enjoys many years of successful flying ahead!
To support the CAF Southern California Wing’s efforts and contribute to the ongoing operation of the aircraft, donations can be made by clicking here.