B-25 Bomber Flight | Champaign, IL

My job often leads to interesting and unique opportunities and today was no exception. Opening up my email this morning I saw an invitation to take part on a media flight on the “Berlin Express,” a fully restored B-25 Bomber which will be available this weekend at Flightstar in Savoy (behind Willard Airport) for ground tours and flights.

Fully restored b-25 bomber

Among those on the flight manifest was 100 year old WWII pilot and veteran George Hawthorne of Sidney, IL. While George didn’t fly a B-25, he did fly a similar model plane, a B-24, during his time in the military. He was accompanied on the flight by his son Kirk.

George took time to talk to the vainer members of the local media in attendance and show pictures of his crew and tell stories of his time as a war pilot. WWII pilots often named their planes (after wives, girlfriends or movie stars), and while George didn’t get a chance to name is particular plane he said he would have named it “The Doris Day,” after the popular movie start of the time.

100 year old WWII Veteran Pilot talks about his experience
WWII veteran pilot reminises about his time in the war
World War II Veteran George Hawthorne hold pictures of himself during his time as a pilot.
100 year old World War II veteran pilot

During out time in the air, I took time to try and put myself in the shoes of the young men that would have flown into battle in a plane such as this.

Trust me when I say this is no luxury flight.

It was hot, cramped, loud, and bumpy. And I was only setting there taking pictures. Imagine trying to do battle in those conditions. The plane would have held 10-11 crew members including the pilot, co-pilot, radio/navigator, and gunmen. These brave men were most likely 18-22 years old and far far away from home with only one goal in mind: to preserve our freedom and the freedom of others.

Truly heroic.

This was a humbling and eye-opening and unforgettable experience. If you ever have the chance to take a flight like this all I can say is , “just do it.”

Dog tags and interior of b-25 bomber
Dog tags can be seen throughout the plane honoring a serviceman who lost his life in a B-25 while serving in that position on the plane.
Champaign Urbana as seen from the air in a b-25 bomber
University of Illinois Round Barns as seen from the air in a B-25 Bomber
Round Barns on the University of Illinois Urbana Campus

This B-25 Mitchell aircraft has been on display in the Eagle Hangar of the EAA museum for decades. Now, fully restored in her silver screen markings, “Berlin Express” is ready for her next mission. One to honor our World War II veterans as well as inspire a new generation of aviation enthusiasts.

From the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) Website:

This plane also has it’s place in Hollywood history. It was used in the movie Catch 22, which boasts a star-studded cast.

The “Berlin Express” will be at Flightstar in Savoy, IL from June 17-19. You can tour the plane from the ground, or schedule one of the morning flights. The airplane will be available for ground tours from 2pm to 5pm each day. Tickets for tours are sold on-site. Ground tour tickets cost $10 for an individual, $20 for a family, and $1/person for large groups. Children under 8 with a paying adult as well as active military and veterans are free. For more information or to book your flight visit their website or call 920-379-5005. This would make an awesome Father’s Day gift!

Hey there, I’m Kristin, of Kdarling Photography. I’m a Wedding, Newborn & Portrait photographer located in Fisher, a small town in East Central Illinois, just a short drive from Champaign Urbana. To learn more, please visit my website at www.kDarlingPhotography.com

B-25 bomber restored from wwii

June 16, 2022

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