Historic PBJ Takes Flight After 23 Years

Commemorative Air Force SoCal Wing completes major restoration of the Navy’s version of the B-25.

Sunday was a big day for the SoCal Wing of the Commemorative Air Force as its North American PBJ-1J — the Navy version of the B-25 — named Semper Fi took flight for the first time since it landed at the Camarillo Airport in California 23 years ago almost to the day. The low-level marine layer that threatened the success of the flight burned off just after noon, leaving brilliant blue skies with patchy clouds that provided a perfect backdrop for the beautifully restored airplane.

With limited resources and many airplanes to maintain, there were several people who thought the airplane would never fly again, said Pat Brown, CAF SoCal's public information officer. As more and more pieces and parts came off the airframe, those doubts became more and more plausible. But the team persevered. Semper Fi looks as good or perhaps even better than it would have coming out of its production hangar in 1944.

According to CAF SoCal, out of 4,390 B-25J airplanes produced, this is the only flying PBJ that exited the production line as that specific model. Also, Semper Fi was produced with a glass nose. Most PBJs were delivered with solid nose sections.

North American PBJ-1J
Semper Fi's total flight time Sunday was about two hours.Commemorative Air Force SoCal Wing

Semper Fi's first flight on Sunday lasted about 30 minutes and was piloted by Russ Gilmore and Dana Dorsey. But the SoCal team was too excited to see the PBJ finally flying that it allowed the airplane to get out for one more mission that same day. The total flight time for the day was about two hours.

Brown said that the Wing has not scheduled any airshows for Semper Fi yet since the flight was not guaranteed to happen. However, now that the airplane is up and running, you can expect to see it at airshows around the western part of the country.

Check out more photos from the historic flight. Photo Gallery