Local News

Old War Plane Heading to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A plane used in combat by the United States to help achieve victory in World War II will be on public display soon at the LaPorte Municipal Airport. Rides and tours of the B-25J Mitchell “Maid in the Shade” will be available through Sunday.

 

Originally, the plane was scheduled to arrive at the airport Monday but stayed grounded until Tuesday in Ypsilanti, Michigan, following a weekend airshow because of storms, said Diane Schwarz, Operations Manager of LaPorte Municipal Airport. The plane is owned by the Commemorative Air Force, an organization with numerous other retired fighter planes used to honor the men and women in the military who flew them.  

           

A B-25J crew member, Jim Olivi, said the restored and preserved planes are also tools to educate people, especially youth, about past wars. “It looks pretty much like it looked like when it was flying combat missions,” Olivi said.

 

The Commemorative Air Force, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, has 71 locations nationwide, including Mesa, Arizona, where the B-25J is stored.

 

B-25’s are known primarily for the models flying combat missions over the Pacific Ocean following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The missions included the bombing of Tokyo. Olivi said their plane flew strictly over Italy and Yugoslavia, bombing primarily railroad bridges at low altitude from the winter of 1944 to the spring of 1945. After the war, Olivi said the plane became a civilian aircraft used in spraying for insects.

 

The Commemorative Air Force later bought it and assigned the plane to the Mesa, Arizona Wing of the organization.

 

“We cleaned it up and refurbished it,” Olivi said.

 

Schwarz said the plane is part of the airport’s 75th-anniversary celebration. The anniversary was actually last year when a B-17 owned by the Commemorative Air Force came offering tours and rides for a week. All of the other festivities, though, were canceled because of the pandemic.

 

Tours of the B-25 are scheduled Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 2-6 PM. The cost of a tour is $10 per person or $20 for a family. Rides will be offered Friday through Sunday from 9 AM to 1 PM at a cost ranging from $325 to $590.

 

Other Saturday happenings include an antique car display, food trucks, aviation career booths, and the LaPorte County Public Library Mobile Classroom. In addition, there will be a pancake breakfast and craft vendors on Sunday from 7 AM to 12 PM.

 

The Aero Club will also draw the winner of a four-passenger 172 model airplane at 4 PM on Sunday. Schwarz said the winner of the plane also receives $20,000 in cash. All 4,000 tickets for the raffle have already sold.

 

“They went pretty fast,” Schwarz said.

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