By DOC WATSON
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | The Commemorative Air Force (CAF), out of Airbase Arizona, is bringing the B-25 Mitchell bomber “Maid in the Shade” to the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport in Broomfield from June 4-10 not only for viewing and touring, but also for flying. The general public has a unique, perhaps even a “bucket-list,” opportunity to experience a flight in one of the legendary airplanes of World War II.
Out of nearly 10,000 B-25s built, only 34 are still flying today and “Maid in the Shade” is one of them. Broomfield is one of 17 stops this airplane will make in CAF’s summer Flying Legends of Victory Tour from June through October.
Named in honor of General Billy Mitchell, who is recognized as the father of strategic bombing, the B-25 was used mainly as a low altitude strafe and skip bomber. The incident that lifted it to legend status was the famous Doolittle raid on Japan. Taking off from the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle led 16 B-25s to Japan where they bombed Tokyo and four other cities four months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. While the mission caused only minor damage militarily, it was an enormous boost to American morale.
The CAF is a non-profit organization—it used to be called the Confederate Air force but changed the name back in 2000—with about 70 units across the country, Airbase Arizona being the largest. It is, in fact, the only unit that is an “airbase,” while all the others are only “wings.” Depending upon the size of each wing, they fly various fully restored World War II aircraft.
Mike Mueller, a self-proclaimed “plane nut” and “World War II buff,” has been CAF’s Ride Program Manager for five years. He spoke of CAF’s mission: “In general our mission is to preserve World War II vintage aircraft and educate people as to what that generation did to preserve our freedom.”
CAF’s accomplishments have been impressive to say the least. For one thing, people’s response has been staggering. People wait in long lines just to go inside the airplane, and most of the rides are sold out before CAF even arrives at a location.
Having done such summer tours for many years, Mueller said that one of their great joys is meeting men who actually flew in these airplanes. The names of all the men they’ve met, in fact, have been written on the bomb bay doors.
“The other thing is education, having kids come out and see the airplane,” Mueller added. “A lot of kids nowadays don’t get much education about World War II, so for them to see airplanes that in many cases their great-grandfathers flew is quite something.”
Since CAF is non-profit, all its workers are volunteers and every dollar collected for flights, as well as the museum in Mesa, Ariz., goes right back into the airplanes. That is certainly understandable when you consider that the B-25 alone costs $2500 per hour to fly.
When asked, “Why should people care about all this?” Mueller’s answer was sage: “World War II was probably the biggest event in our history in terms of its impact on the world. People need to care about their history, and being able to come out and see and touch and perhaps ride on (these airplanes) is, I think, important to experience.”
Perhaps you agree. You can read much more about the CAF at their website, www.azcaf.org, and about the Broomfield event specifically at www.azcaf.org/location/broomfield-co-tour-stop/. You can even book your flight right online.
Also look for a follow-up story as the Herald Times has been invited on a ride specifically for the media on June 4.
By DOC WATSON