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WWII ‘flying museum’ visits Wichita for viewings, rides

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2013, at 5:26 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013, at 7:07 a.m.

The bomber plane was made at the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kan., in 1943.

From an Army Air Corps base in Corsica, it flew missions in World War II against the Germans in Italy and Yugoslavia. “And it has about six repaired bullet holes, courtesy of the Germans,” its 65-year-old volunteer pilot, Russ Gilmore, said Tuesday. It took 28 years to restore the bomber, and it is now “like a new airplane, just like in 1943,” Gilmore said. He called it “one of the very few combat veterans” still flying.

Gilmore was talking about a B-25J bomber called “Maid in the Shade,” part of the non-profit Airbase Arizona Commemorative Air Force. The bomber, now a “flying museum,” is at Wichita’s Jabara Airport until Monday morning offering viewings and cockpit tours at $5 per person or $10 per family (children under 12 are free) and rides costing $395, for a seat by the waist gunner, or $650 per person, for a spot in the cockpit behind the pilot. Riders must be 12 or older. Because the money for the ride goes to the non-profit museum, it is tax-deductible, he said.

And what a ride it is, Gilmore said. Asked to describe what the plane sounds like up close, he said, “Manly. It rumbles and crackles and pops.”

With a crew of four, it takes seven passengers at a time. Each rider is in the airplane 40 to 45 minutes, in the air 20 to 25 minutes of that span.

The plane is in town from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day until it leaves Wichita at 10 a.m. Monday for the rest of its tour.

People wanting to reserve a ride are asked to call 480-322-5503 or e-mail to b25rc@azcaf.org.

To get to the plane, go to Midwest Corporate Aviation, 3512 N. Webb Road, at Jabara Airport.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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