NewsLocal NewsCharlotte County

Actions

EAA flying guests over Punta Gorda in WWII B-25 Mitchell this weekend

B-25 Mitchell in Punta Gorda
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 07:45:01-04

PUNTA GORDA, FLA — A piece of living history is flying in the skies over Punta Gorda this weekend. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s B-25 Mitchell nicknamed The Berlin Express, will be open to the public for ground and air tours through the weekend.

The B-25 Mitchell first took to the skies in 1941, taking missions across the both theaters of World War II. The bomber might be best known for taking part in Doolittle’s Raid, when Army bombers took off navy carriers to bomb Tokyo, after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

“They were all volunteers, every one of them,” said EAA Volunteer Pilot Tom Ewing. “They knew it was going to be a one-way trip. They didn’t know where they were going to land, or how they were going to land. Whether they were going to be alive.”

Ewing says without those brave pilots the outcome of the war might have been much different, changing Japan’s whole war strategy.

“What they did after that Doolittle raid, they knew they were vulnerable,” said Ewing. “So, they held back four fighter groups, that would go out in the Pacific and take more and more territory. And they had to extend their defensive parameter. And they extended it all the way to this place called Midway.”

EAA is sharing this flying history museum with the public through the weekend at Punta Gorda, something Ewing says honoring the WWII pilots that flew before him is why he does it.

“The stories that they got to tell. And those guys are almost gone now and a lot of that history is almost gone too,” said Ewing.

Ewing says sharing these stories with the public is a way to remind us of what happened so we don’t repeat it.

“We want to take the message forward, War is a tragedy. You don’t ever want it to happen again,” Ewing explained.

While the B25 is flying above the skies of Punta Gorda this weekend, down below volunteers are working on another airplane, one of the last flying B-17s. Ewing says without the folks here in Punta Gorda, that plane might not have ever flown again.

“If not for Punta Gorda, Florida, the spirit of Punta Gorda and the people, that valuable piece of military history would have very likely already flown its last flight,” said Ewing. “And when that happens, every one of these airplanes will eventually not be able to fly anymore, they will go into a museum. When that happens the only history anyone will know these airplanes is going to come from a small display sign that you can put in front of them.”

Ewing says the B-17 will take about a year to restore here in Punta Gorda, but when it flies again there wouldn’t be a dry eye in sight, knowing how much work went into it.

If you are looking to fly in the B-25 this weekend or just get a ground tour, you can call 920-379-4244. This will connect you to EAA volunteers. Flights cost between 360 and 400 dollars.