B-25s at Tico 2012
The Valiant Air Command’s show commonly known as “TICO” (which comes from the Titusville Coca Airport) this year worked around a “Doolittle Raider” theme, since this year is the 70th anniversary of the famous carrier launched raid. As we know on April 18, 1942, the raid was launched off the carrier USS Hornet. LTC. Jimmy Doolittle was the pilot of the first B-25 launched and his copilot was LT. Richard Cole. Richard Cole (currently age 93) was at the show in the Valiant Air Command PX tent, signing autographs. Dick Cole is one the five surviving raiders and is a fine gentleman. He looks at least 20 years younger than his current age too.
The Raider theme is one being used for many airshows this year. But TICO was first. They had four B-25s in attendance this year.
Larry Kelley sent down his B-25 “Panchito” which he has owned for 15 or so years. It’s an airplane that is absolutely magnificent. It was fresh from its spring polishing and looked like it just rolled off the line. This airplane is marked in an accurate WWII paint scheme and always looks good. Larry works with the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and you will find them at shows with Panchito. Panchito seems to be about everywhere and I’m fairly sure it’s on the road (or in the air) during the entire airshow season.
“Wild Cargo” was at the show too. This B-25 is owned by Jerry Yegan and the Fighter Factory, Military Aircraft Museum, in Virginia Beach. Many years ago it was a part of the Walter Soplata collection in Newbury Ohio, sitting in a field with quite a few other rare airplanes. It was acquired by my friend Steve Detch who had it in his hangar at Air Acres in Woodstock Georgia for quite a few years. It was in pieces and my son used to play in it 17 years ago as a three year old. It was named “Wild Cargo” since at one time it carried zoo animals. The name stuck after it was restored and it’s been back in the skies since about 2008. Mr. Yegan spared no expense in bringing this aircraft back to better than new condition. It really stands out and it’s great that this aircraft is available for airshows.
“History Flight” operates a canon nosed B-25H “Barbie III”. This is an accurately painted aircraft representing one that was flown in combat by former AVG (Flying Tigers) pilot R.T. Smith. R.T. named the B-25 after his new wife Barbie. Barbie III is another B-25 that’s on tour a lot and seems to show up at a lot of airshows. The paint on her is slightly worn and a good black and white picture makes it look like its WWII again. You can also find Barbie III at airshows throughout most of the season.
The last B-25 is the “Killer B” a resident of the VAC Museum. Tom Reilly owns it and is one of those people who knows more about B-25s now than anybody on the planet. In his 40 year career, he has restored 34 aircraft of which 10 were B-25s, he also restored the B-25, B-17 and B-24 that the Collings Foundation tours in. For that matter Tom restored Panchito too. His old business was based in Kissimmee Fl, restoring WWII aircraft. After the 2004 hurricane, he finally moved to Douglas Georgia. His B-25J “Killer B” is painted as you would have found one early in the war, operating out of North Africa. In the past this airplane has had the left seat graced by Dick Cole on several occasions.
All the B-25 pilots are good, maybe Tom Reilly is the best. Not only does he check pilots out in the B-25, but he can fly it to the limits. At TICO 2010 we were shown a demonstration of how low you could really fly a B-25, and it was nothing short of stunning. For those who think Snort flying anything low is impressive, they need to watch Tom fly a B-25.
The B-25s flew everyday of the show and it was well worth it to see them fly. One B-25 flying is impressive, four is at least four times as good if not better. They represent an era in aviation and WWII history that will never be replicated. You can watch B-25s fly on TV and in newsreel footage, but it doesn’t start to match what the real thing is like. The VAC show in Florida is one that is well worth going to and is a great way to start the airshow season. The airshow for 2013 is currently scheduled for March 22, 23, and 24th, time to put it on the calendar.
I would like to thank, VAC Public Relations Officer Col. Terry Yon for his assistance. You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com. The VAC is at www.VACWarbirds.org.