Free airplane rides for kids will be just one of the exciting events held at the 5th Annual Sullivan Airport Fly-In on Saturday, August 16 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Children aged eight to 16 are welcome to come out for a ride, sponsored by the EAA Young Eagles.
The event, sponsored by the Sullivan Regional Airport Board and the Sullivan Chamber of Commerce, will include a car show, craft and vendor booths, music and entertainment, helicopter rides and tours, and more. The fly-in will also feature two historic World War II aircraft: a B-25J Mitchell Bomber and an Aeronca L-3 Army observation plane.
Steelville’s John Fester will co-pilot the bomber, and First Community National Bank is sponsoring the bomber’s appearance in Sullivan. Fester calls himself a “World War II aircraft fanatic.” He said, “These historic aircraft are not going to be flying forever, and they’ll all eventually end up in a museum somewhere. I think there are only about 25 of these bombers that still actively fly in air shows. It’s very cost-prohibitive to keep them flying. Fewer pilots are licensed to fly them, and there are fewer mechanics around to work on them. The maintenance and insurance alone is very expensive.”
Fester earned his commercial multiengine pilot’s license in March of 2013, in order to be able to fly the B-25. He’s had his private instrument license for many years, but wanted to be able to fly this plane, too. He has been a part of the Missouri Wing of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) organization for about four years and travels to St. Charles every week to help with the maintenance of the B-25.
A 30-minute flight in the B-25 “Show Me,” called the Living History Flight Experience, costs $395 per person, and only six passengers can ride at a time. Fester plans to take his passengers from Sullivan down to Steelville and back, passing over Cuba so locals can see their hometowns from overhead.
Even those who can’t take a flight can see the plane inside and out, and talk to the crew, between flights. “It’s a lot of fun,” Fester said. “What I like most is talking to World War II veterans, especially if they had anything to do with these airplanes. It truly is sad that we have lost so many veterans already, and the ones left are getting frail and it’s hard to get to the show.”
The North American B-25 Mitchell Bomber made its debut in April of 1942 during the Doolittle Raids, also known as the Tokyo Raids, which followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. The years following the attack on Pearl Harbor were dark as Japanese forces continued to move deeper into the Pacific. The B-25s entered the war as an American morale booster.
Sixteen B-25 Bombers took off from the USS Hornet, led by Col. Jimmy Doolittle, to fly over Japan, drop several bombs, and fly on to land in a free area of China. This raid not only was meant for a morale boost to the American people, but also to prove to the Japanese forces that their homelands were not invulnerable to American attacks.
According to Boeing.com, the North American B-25 Mitchell, a twin-engine bomber that became standard equipment for the Allied Air Forces in World War II, was perhaps the most versatile aircraft of the war. It became the most heavily armed airplane in the world, was used for high- and low-level bombing, strafing, photoreconnaissance, submarine patrol and even as a fighter, and was distinguished as the aircraft that completed the historic raid over Tokyo in 1942.
It required 8,500 original drawings and 195,000 engineering man-hours to produce the first one, but nearly 10,000 were produced from late 1939, when the contract was awarded to North American Aviation, through 1945.
Basically, it was a twin-tail, mid-wing land monoplane powered by two 1,700-horsepower Wright Cyclone engines. Normal bomb capacity was 5,000 pounds.
Some versions carried 75mm cannon, machine guns and added firepower of 13 .50-caliber guns in the conventional bombardier's compartment. One version carried eight .50-caliber guns in the nose in an arrangement that provided 14 forward-firing guns.
Only a handful of B-25 Mitchell Bombers are left of the nearly 10,000 produced. The Sullivan Fly-In offers a rare opportunity to take flight in an aircraft that helped change the direction of World War II.
The Sullivan Area Chamber of Commerce will be serving a pancake breakfast as well as a lunch menu. There will be a variety of craft and vendor booths, fire and police department vehicles, tours of an Arch Helicopter, backyard flyer-ultralights, Tom Cline Helicopter rides, and music and entertainment throughout the day.