North American B-25 Mitchell Bomber

The B-25 Mitchell Bomber was the little brother of the bombing effort. During the air war of WWII, the bomber campaign was one of the largest endeavors taken on by the Allies. High altitude precision bombing by the British and the United States was daily routine to keep the production capabilities, transportation and moral of the Germans to an absolute low. The B-17, B-24 and Avro Lancaster are three of the most produced and widely used bombers during the precision bombing campaign. The B-25 bomber was never designed for the purpose of high altitude bombing. It was originally designed as an attack bomber headed for England but other planes with better attributes for that role, including the A-20 Havoc.

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The US Army Air Corp liked the plane for a medium bomber and thats where it gained so much traction that it became a mainstay for allied nations. The B-25 was so well designed for it’s role that it was used in every theater of WWII. The greatness of the B-25 can only be measured by the capabilities of North American Aviation. North American was one of the largest producers of planes during WWII, while also the only plant to build trainers, fighter and bombers simultaneously. The AT-6/SNJ Texan, B-25 Mitchell, and the P-51 Mustang all came out of the Inglewood Plant while an additionally 6,608 B-25’s came out of the Kansas City plant. This gives the B-25 a very personally connection to my family as my Grandpa was the plant manager in Kansas City. It was one of those family facts that we didn’t really know more about until we got more involved with aviation.

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The B-25 quickly gained fame as the aircraft used for the Doolittle Raid on April 18th, 1942. Sixteen B-25’s took off from the carrier USS Hornet and bombed Japan. While the target was industrial areas on the island, the overall purpose was to achieve a demoralizing effect on the Japanese, by making them aware that they were able to be reached, while also having a positive moral booster in the US. This was the first strike after the infamous Pearl Harbor attack in December 7th, 1941. The concept originated from Navy Captain Francis Low, Assistant Chief of Staff for anti-submarine warfare, who reported to Admiral Ernest King who convened with President Roosevelt who requested the attack. The plan called for the use of medium bombers launched off carrier and then land in an allied country. Of the sixteen B-25s launched from the Hornet, one landed in the Soviet Union, one crashed on the coast and the rest went down over China. While most of the crew survived the planes were never able to be transferred for use in China, which was a tertiary objective of the plan. The history of the Doolittle Raid is a story in itself that can only be understood by looking at the lives of each man that went on the raid. The official historian and honorary Doolittle Raider, Carroll V. Glines, wrote one of the best books on the mission and I highly recommend the read.

In 2012 I had the great privilege to go to Dayton, OH to be part of the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Reunion. Twenty of the then twenty five flying B-25s in the world were at the reunion. It was the largest gathering of B-25s since WWII. Jimmy Doolittle, who lead the raid and in which the mission was named after, promised his men that they would have a party when they all returned home after the raid was finished. It took many years to fulfill his promise as many of the men didn’t come home right away. Every year since the inaugural celebration in the late 1940’s, a reunion is held with the remaining members. A silver goblet engraved with each of the 80 mens name is brought in a special case. The survivors toast those that are left and those that have passed on. At the time of the 70th Reunion in 2012 there were five remaining raiders. As of today there are only three.

In the above photo, the lead plane is the only B-25H in the world, Barbie III. This particular B-25 is one of the best examples of a ground attack bomber as it houses fourteen .50 caliber machine guns, four of those in the nose and a 75mm cannon in the nose. The force of the cannon was so great that the entire plane vibrated, noise rang inside the fuselage and smoke filled the cabins, after a shell was fired. After a dozen rounds the nose had to be replaced the vibrations were so great. However the low level attacking that the B-25 was doing against bridges, truck convoys, radio installations and anti shipping that the forward arsenal made the B-25 very formidable. This does not include the 3,200lbs of bombs it was capable of carrying.

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The B-25 was crewed by six men; pilot, copilot, bombardier or nose gunner, radio operator or waist gunner, flight engineer or navigator and tail gunner. The plane was equipped with a top turret, waist guns and in later models a nose gun that was operated by the bombardier. The radio operator, navigator and bombardier could switch off positions if needed to the other gun positions. In Chino, CA is Aero Trader, the leading restoration facility for B-25s. Every B-25 that is flying today has at one point or another has been worked on at the facility. Aero Trader owns only one B-25, Pacific Princess which is a J model and has a cabin in front of the pilots for the bombardier and a single .50 caliber machine gun. I had the chance to get inside Pacific Princess a couple years ago to see how much space was really inside a B-25. The main compartment is in the front with the pilot and copilot seat and enough space for a jump seat behind the pilot. The radio operator had to be crammed in right behind the bomb bay to act as waist gunner if needed. One main passageways exist along the top of the bomb bay that links to the rear waist guns and tail gun. A second tunnel exists that leads underneath the main cabin to the front nose gun.

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Being only 5’10 and a 150lbs I can honestly say that getting around inside that plane isn’t easy. Of course I had a camera in my hand but even still, for the young boys that were flying that plane in combat I can’t imagine what it was like. Have flown in the plane several times, including Pacific Princess, Arizona CAF’s B-25J Maid in the Shade and the Texas Flying Legends B-25J Betty’s Dream, I can also say that it was one fun plane to fly in!

There was a time when planes like the B-25 or B-17 could be seen flying in swarms across the sky. Nowadays seeing just one flying is impressive. After the wide usage throughout the war, including the US Army Air Corp, US Navy, and the US Marine Corps, the B-25 kept it’s reputation for being a reliable aircraft. One example of a US Navy versions is being restored in the CAF SoCal Wing. The B-25 went on to fly in several other key positions one of those being as a water dumper It’s ability for low level flying and capacity for 3,200lbs of storage space in the bomb bay made it useful for hauling gallons of water over wildland fires. B-25’s also went on to serve in several other countries including several in South America. Throughout the war the B-25 was used by the British, Canadian, Australian, Dutch, Soviet, Chinese, Brazilian and Free French Air Forces. The airmen of these nations as well as our own helped to cement the history of the B-25.

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If your out an an airshow, or have a museum by you, keep your eyes to the sky and ears open for you might just hear its twin Wright R-2600 Engines going by. If you have a true passion for the plane several museums offer rides in the B-25 and from personnal experience, it’s worth the price of admission!

Images Captured with Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, 70-200 VRII, 200-400 VR on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Texas Legends do their reutine at Houston

I got home last night and am still getting through images. It was just a ton of fun photographing planes this past week at Ellington Field. For the warbird enthusiast, Wings over Houston really is a good airshow to go to. It’s just non stop warbirds flying and since it is only a couple days long it makes it really time convenient for other projects. One of the groups that is based on the field is the Texas Flying Legends Museum. Their fleet includes eleven flying aircraft all with amazing histories. They were up doing their routine Saturday and Sunday.

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Their performance is amazing. In a fifteen minute show they reenact battles in the Pacific with the Zero, B-25 and P-40. The Corsair then comes in and so do the mustangs in formation. The whole performance is quite amazing with the hardest critiques being done by the pilots. Sunday Warren Pietsch went up and truly showed off nimbleness of the Zero.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Wings over Houston Airshow

It sucks going into an airshow knowing that tragedy has happened just days before. The world truly is a small place and these things do effect us all. The show still must go on and Ellington Field will be rumbling this weekend as the warbirds line up the runway for the Wings over Houston Airshow. Some of my favorite planes and true friends that will be their are the Texas Flying Legends. Ellington Field is home to their collection and will be a part of the show. How much of the show I’m not sure because this is the first time I’ve ever come this event. As the last major airshow in the US this season I am looking forward to it. As the saying goes, the show must go on.

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These shots were taken back at the 70th Doolittle Reunion in 2012. This is the B-25J “Betty’s Dream,” FG-1D Corsair “Whistling Death,” Zero “Last Samurai” and P-40k Warhawk “Aleutian Tiger.”

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

The Big Boys are in the Sky

I love how much thought goes into all the different routines and acts that are incorporated in the airshow. One of my favorite was on Friday when “FIFI” the only B-29 Superfortress flying in the world right now flew overhead with three B-25 Mitchell bombers and two TBM Avengers. It flew after the Tora! Tora! Tora! display which in itself is a great performance! The bombers flew in support of the bombing effort of WWII

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It was great to see FIFI flying over the field. After she took off she started to make a high orbit and for a moment it looked like she was going to stay that way. Thankfully she lined up on runway 36 and made a slow northward pass. Afterward she did an orbit with the other planes that were going to be in the formation and came in overhead in a arrowhead formation. I actually had to switch to the 70-200 to get the shot of all the planes together they were flying so close overhead and in such a tight formation. Then again that B-29 is one big ass plane.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VR, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Don’t be afraid of the Clutter

One thing I have noticed while working at Airshows is how often I photograph a plane and someone else then comes up takes the same picture in the same spot but never does anything with it. It intrigues me how often with static shots in particular, planes will get ignored and left out just because of the “clutter” around it. What i mean by clutter is all that normal airshow stuff like fences, ropes, tents and people. None of that means that the image can’t be fine tuned. Here’s an example.

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This is the B-25 Mitchell Bomber “Photo Fanny” of Planes of Fame. This plane comes out pretty regularly but often surrounded by the same stuff as you see here. Now does my version look less accurate to what everyone else saw there? Yep. Does my version make the plane look more desirable? Yep! Getting rid of all that clutter brings the eyes back to one thing that’s important in this shot, the plane. While it takes a little time, it’s worth it in the end. A good tip to be thinking about when taking these shots is if you know you are going to be playing with those clutter elements watch for clean backgrounds or at least backgrounds that are easy to work with. It makes your life a whole lot easier if you don’t have to be cloning material over and over again. I know from experience.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 24-70 AF-S f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Flying Over the Bridger’s

Flying Over the Bridger’s

I never had time this past week to put this up but there was no way I would pass up not sharing this fun. A week ago i was able to fly over the Bridger’s with the CAF Az boys in their B-25 “Maid in the Shade.” Out of all the days that weekend and the days since, it was probably the best one to go flying on.

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Nothing like flying over main street.

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Back side of the Bridger’s never looked so good.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f/2.8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

A couple Fun Statics to Enjoy

A couple Fun Statics to Enjoy

I love doing static plane photography. Everyone time i step behind the camera to do a static shot of a plane it is always another challenge for me. With some planes it’s easy to find the right angle or composition with a plane. Then there are those that aren’t so easy, like this B-25. Now I have spent some time trying to get that awe shot that kind of sums up this plane when it’s on the ground, getting closer but i still don’t feel like I’m there. The one big challenge with this particular plane is the fact that is so difficult to photograph it vertically. The relationship between the engines and the nose make it hard to align all the would be attractive features in one shot.

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With the help of Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 I was able to bring out certain details in the plane. Aluminum siding is always a bit more complicated due to its reflective natural but it also can make for some great lighting situations. It also makes a really good subject for black and whites which is always worth playing with.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, AF-S 24-70 f/2,8, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Too Vertical or Not?

There are many basics to this photography thing and one of the principle ones is do you compose vertically or horizontally? With some subjects the answer comes naturally. Take for instance these B-25’s. They are long, wide, and pretty difficult to compose vertically. The hardest part I always found with them is that the engines are far enough apart that it is hard to get both engines are even just one in and make it look good.

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These are just a couple of quick shots from Ohio. Top one is Devil Dog, a B-25 that is painted in Marine Corps colors and the bottom is Show Me a B-25J from CAF Missouri. The fun fact with these planes is when you look at them head on, they just look totally bad ass. Most have five machine guns some, like Devil Dog, have a whole lot more!

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

Working Hard and Hardly Working

Working Hard and Hardly Working

Yesterday the planes flew over to Wright Patterson Air Field for the memorial flight that occurred today. Yesterday truly marked the 70th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid, for it was April 18th that the raid took place. In honor of this 20 B25’s went up at 1230 to get into formation to go over the field. At 1300 hours on the nose the planes filled the sky and Wright Patterson was once again filled with the sounds of the Mitchell’s.

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There were so many planes that capturing them without getting micro dots was actually a challenge. Switching over to the 70-200 would’ve gotten all the planes in the frame but they would have been small. With only two passes there was no time to waste so every shot counted.

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After coordinating 20 B-25’s together the crews went back to Grimes Airfield and needless to say they were tired. After the hour drive we arrived at the field and this was pretty much the sight. The crews of each plane relaxing in the shade under the wing.

In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digitl Film

The B-25’s Arrive

The B-25’s Arrive

One of the great joys of working with Aircraft is that you get to see a lot of really cool planes and learn a lot of diverse history. Last week I blogged about going to the Doolittle Reunion which is truly a celebration not for the public but for the men that flew that daring mission 70 years ago and those that are still around today. The event has been going on since last Friday, at least that was when the planes started to arrive. Now part of the event is at Wright Patterson Airfield Base, one of the oldest military bases in the country and no longer an active military base but a museum. The other part of the event, which started earlier, takes place at Grimes Airfield, outside Dayton Ohio. That’s where the week began.

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In the Camera Bag:
Nikon D3, 200-400 VR, 70-200 VRII, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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