TWIN FALLS — The B-25 bomber shook as its engines started to turn.
“Wear your headsets — it’ll get loud,” Jerry “Geezer” Washburn, a pilot with the Commemorative Air Force, told a handful of passengers.
The World War II bomber sputtered and smoked Monday as Jordan Brown, pilot in command, idled her down the tarmac at Joslin Field Magic Valley Regional Airport.
A deafening roar replaced the sputtering as Brown revved the 1,700-horsepower engines and spun the old girl at the end of the runway. Seconds later, the runway released its grip on the 73-year-old combat veteran and Maid in the Shade took flight over Twin Falls.
Through Labor Day, Maid in the Shade — one of 10,000 B-25 bombers built — will be on display for the 20-week-long Flying Legends Victory Tour.
“There’s not many of these birds left,” said retired pilot Kevin Trainor of Twin Falls, who had come to admire the machine. “I can’t imagine flying one of these off a carrier.”
Trainor, a naval flight officer during the Vietnam War, was anxious to get inside the iconic plane, which was based at Corsica Island in the Mediterranean during WWII. Fifteen bomb shells painted on the fuselage indicate the number of combat missions during the war.
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Only 34 B-25J bombers — the last series made — still fly.
“She’s the only B-25 left that flew in combat in WWII,” Washburn told Trainor. Others were either shot down or scrapped after the war.
While the planes are rare, so are the veterans who flew them. WWII veterans are dying at a rate of nearly 500 per day.
“Our mission is to keep these planes flying,” Washburn said. “And to keep the memories alive.”
The Commemorative Air Force is a Dallas-based organization with 12,000 members across the U.S.
Maid in the Shade is now based in Mesa, Ariz., and is one of 160 CAF aircraft still flying, Washburn said.
“It’s a living, flying museum.”