Search on for wartime bomber

The rumour started the way a rumour usually does.

Patrick Mihalek and Todd Trainor from Brighton

Patrick Mihalek and Todd Trainor from Brighton

The rumour started the way a rumour usually does.

Someone heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend and so on.

Sometimes rumours turn out to be true and that is exactly what prompted two gentleman from Brighton, Mich. to follow up on a rumour that a B-25 Mitchell aircraft — or at least part of such an aircraft — was laying in a farmer’s field somewhere around Rimbey.

Patrick Mihalek, director of the Warbirds of Glory Museum in Brighton and board member Todd Trainor, are following up on a statement made on YouTube about the airplane.

“The guy said that is brother worked around Rimbey in the oilpatch and he knew about this farmer who had bought the whole airplane and it was properly dismantled, and laying in his field.”

Trainor said the person who made the statement does not return emails and he has no idea of knowing if the statement was factual.

However, he has not given up trying to find out more information, because if there were such a plane in the Rimbey area it would be a golden opportunity for he and Mihalek to use the parts to reconstruct the plane they already have.

“We definitely need more parts,” he said. “Of course if they want a million dollars for it our efforts are wasted.”

Trainor has talked to people at the Smithson Truck Museum, the local barber and town administration about the possibility of such a plane being in the vicinity but has received no leads.

He added one volunteer mentioned he had seen a comment posted by an Internet user that mentioned parts of a B-25 Mitchell had been found in a farm field near Rimbey. Unfortunately, the museum representative said he had no way of contacting the person.

But even though his search appears to be at a dead end, Trainor said the people he talked to were most co-operative.

“I want to come down there and check Rimbey out,” he said. “The people there are so friendly and helpful. I really would like to meet them.”

Trainor and Mihalek, who are both passionate about the airplanes used in the Second World War, recently recovered a 70-year old North American B-25 Mitchell bomber from a remote crash site in Alaska.

The bomber was nicknamed Sandbar Mitchell after being forced to land on a sandbar in the Tanana River outside Fairbanks after a double-engine failure shortly after takeoff in 1969.

The plane flew with the USAAF from 1944 to 1959 and then became a fire-suppression bomber. It was used in Alaska in the late ’60s to fight forest fires and it was while helping fight the Manley Hot Springs fires

in June of ’69 the plane experienced double-engine failure.

The pilot walked away uninjured but the right wing of the plane was damaged and the forward fuselage wrinkled. After the engines, propellers and wheels were removed, the plane was abandoned.

After raising $27,000 from a kickstarter fund drive on the Internet, Trainor and Mihalek and 12 volunteers travelled to the crash site on a remote island in the middle of the Tanana River near Fairbanks, Alaska in June. The plane had been badly mutilated by scavengers and no longer had outer wings, and her forward and aft sections were gone.

“If it was a human being you would say his arms and legs were cut off,” said Trainor.

But the centre section and the rest of the plane was intact, so the crew painstakingly took apart the pieces and hauled them out and a volunteer helicopter air lifted the centre piece.

The disassembled plane was put on a flat bed truck and taken the 3,700 miles to Michigan.

Using parts from other salvaged B-25s and hunting for additional parts, the men hope to rebuild the plane to flying status. They plan to fly the bomber as Sandbar Mitchell under the public trust for the non-profit Warbirds of Glory Museum.

Restoring Second World War planes is a way of honouring the men and women who served, said Trainor.

“We are just a little, tiny museum, but our goal is to create a flying museum to honor our veterans for their bravery and defending our freedom.”

Anyone with any information about a B-25 airplane near Rimbey is asked to contact Patrick or Todd at 1-810-599-4035 or ttad@aol.com

More photos in this week’s edition of the Rimbey Review.