Want to Fly a B-25?

Panchito began life as a military training airplane. Rob Mark

Nearly everyone who attends an airshow or has visited an aviation museum has probably envisioned themselves waving to people on the side of the taxiway from the cockpit of one of the airplanes they've seen. Some lean toward the North American B-25 "Mitchell" bomber, made famous by General Jimmy Doolittle and his band of 16 B-25s that took off from the aircraft carrier Hornet in April 1942. These pilots will be intrigued by the chance to climb the tiny ladder sticking out beneath the cockpit of an airplane like Panchito, a Mitchell owned and operated by the Delaware Aviation Museum Foundation in Georgetown, Delaware.

Flying spoke to the foundation's director of flight training, Sabrina Kipp who spends her days as a Boeing 737 captain for Southwest Airlines. She said the foundation runs an FAA-Approved B-25 ground school four times each year – April, August, October and November – prior to the pilot or second in command (SIC) flight training that leads to a B-25 type rating. Why offer B-25 training and orientation rides? "Rides help fund the airplane and keep it flying, but many airshows won't let us offer rides," Kipp said. "There aren't many schools that will teach you about the B-25 either. The PIC and SIC and even orientation rides or just sitting in on the B-25 ground school helps fund the Panchito's operation."

She said the B-25 training program begins with two to three students per class. The ground school runs just one day. For the SIC rating, “The FAA only demands we train to 61.55 proficiency. That means takeoffs and landings, slow flight, stalls and simulated engine out procedures. We want a pilot to experience how the airplane handles during a single-engine go-around from a full flap landing. We complete the SIC training in one and a half hours of flight. There’s also no oral for the SIC rating.” The PIC training demands a week of a pilot’s attention and normally includes about 14 hours of flight training depending upon the person’s experience.

PIC or SIC training will bring students face-to-face with this cockpit. Rob Mark

Kipp detailed the airplane’s life before the museum assumed ownership. “Panchito rolled off the factory line in 1944 and quickly became a trainer for both the Army Air Corp and later the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard until the 1950s when it was decommissioned. It then transitioned into a fire bomber role and finally as a crop duster before finally making its way to Kissimmee Florida where it turned into a rusting airport hulk until the 1980s. That’s when it was restored by Tom Reilly before being turned over to the Delaware Aviation Museum Foundation.”

Powered by a pair of Curtis-Wright Cyclone 2600s during WW2, the engines were rated 1,700 hp. The use of 100LL fuel today, however, forces crews to pull the throttles back some reducing usable power about 10 percent. Still, the B-25 is no slowpoke. Kipp says the airplane cruises at 170 mph and flies final approach at a reference speed of 135 mph with full flaps. The safe single engine airspeed at which the airplane is controllable with one engine out is 145 mph. She added, “We don’t wait for 145 to rotate on takeoff though. We pull it off at 100, push the nose over in ground effect to gain speed, get the wheels up and then make our first power reduction at 145.”

Pilots interested in the PIC rating should plan to bring a high-limit credit card or a check since earning the PIC type runs about $48,000-$49,000. An SIC rating can be had for roughly 10 percent of that figure.

Head over to the Delaware Aviation Museum website for additional scheduling information.

Rob MarkAuthor
Rob Mark is an award-winning journalist, business jet pilot, flight instructor, and blogger.

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