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A Brighton, Michigan man is rescuing a crashed WWII B-25 Bomber to restore. This airplane is a piece of WWII and aviation history.

The Project

A 30-year old Michigan man is organizing a small team of volunteers to rescue a crashed B-25 from Alaska.    This June, Patrick Mihalek and his friend Todd Trainor, both from Brighton, are planning to recover a 70-year old North American B-25J Mitchell bomber (USAAF # 44-30733) from her remote crash site in Alaska. 

For years this famous World War II era bomber has been nicknamed “Sandbar Mitchell” after she was forced to land on a sandbar in the Tanana River outside of Fairbanks after a double-engine failure shortly after takeoff in 1969.

Using parts from other salvaged B-25’s and hunting for additional parts, the two hope to rebuild her to flying status.  She will fly as Sandbar Mitchell under the public trust for the non-profit Warbirds of Glory Museum.

Become part of the Sandbar Mitchell Support team through your donation.  As part of the Support Team your donation will bring the remains of Sandbar Mitchell to a Michigan workshop so she can be restored to flying condition.

The Passion

My name is Patrick Mihalek. I have been passionate about aviation since I was a child.

My entire life is about aviation. After college I received my A&P certification and started a small business with a big dream to restore warbirds. For the past five years I have done that. I have worked my way up from nothing. I now travel frequently to maintain warbirds and in my shop I am restoring a 1940 NA-64 Yale for a customer.

I always dreamed about restoring a B-25 Mitchell bomber, but never thought it would actually happen, until now. I have found a B-25J Mitchell bomber that can be recovered from Alaska and restored to flying condition using parts that I have collected over the past few years.

We are two guys from Brighton with proven passion for aviation history and shallow pockets. We cannot do this by ourselves.  We need your help to make this succeed.  

The Airplane

First let us tell you about the airplane. This plane is nicknamed “Sandbar Mitchell” because she is a B-25J Mitchell bomber that crash-landed on a sandbar in the Tanana River.

After serving her duties with the USAAF from 1944 to 1959, Sandbar Mitchell continued to serve her country as fire-suppression bomber, Tanker #8. Owned by Edgar Thorsrud, she was one of several B-25s used in Alaska in the late 1960’s to help fight forest fires. On June 27th, 1969 she was called into duty to help fight the Manley Hot Springs fires. Shortly after takeoff she experienced double-engine failure. The pilot, Herm Gallaher had very few options, so instead of landing in the river or in the forest he landed gear up on a small sandbar in the middle of the Tanana River.

Herm walked away, but the right wing was damaged and the forward fuselage was wrinkled. After her engines, propellers and wheels were removed, she was abandoned.

Please watch this 4-minute video to learn more about B-25J Sandbar Mitchell and our involvement in the education of our community's youth.

Patrick and Logan forming a piece for a WWII airplane.

Throughout the next 44 years many people visited Sandbar Mitchell. Unfortunately, many have taken souvenirs and sadly cut off her outer wings, forward and aft section. Fortunately the heart and soul of Sandbar Mitchell, the valuable center section, still remains on the sandbar today.  She is in remarkably good condition.

The Challenge

The crash site is now a tiny but heavily wooded island.  There are no roads nearby and the Tanana River can be very treacherous and wild.   The only way to get to the site is by boat or by helicopter.

Although we have been involved in aviation our entire lives, we do not pretend to know how to recover a big, heavy World War II bomber from a remote crash site. We have spent months seeking ideas and suggestions from many aviation friends. We believe we have a creative plan to recover this aircraft and bring it back to Michigan.

The Plan

This is our creative idea: Our plan is to travel to the crash-site on a remote island in the middle of the Tanana River near Fairbanks Alaska. The Recovery Team will consist of 10 to 16 volunteers. We cannot afford a helicopter, so we will be using an airboat. There is no electricity, running water, shelter, or any modern conveniences on the island. Just trees, mosquitoes, bears, and moose. We will have to pee and poop in the woods. We will go there in June… so it will be daylight about 20 hours a day. Using basic tools and creative problem-solving we plan to remove as many parts from Sandbar Mitchell as we can.  In the end, we will be left with the core center section which cannot be easily disassembled any further. It will weigh about 2000 pounds and will be about 28 feet long, 8 feet wide and 7 feet tall. The parts that we remove we can put on the airboat and taken back to the mainland. But the large and heavy center section will be a challenge.

We have two plans. Plan A, the cheap plan, is to build a large wooden sled under the center section. Then we will wait until the Tanana River freezes next winter. Then like you see on Discovery Channel Ice Road Truckers, we will pull the sled and the heavy center section down the frozen river with a snow machines to the mainland. Talk about delayed gratification.

Plan B would be to find somebody to donate time on a large helicopter to airlift the center section off of the remote island.  But that will be expensive. Not many helicopters can lift 2000 pounds.  But if somebody offers to provide the air lift service we will say “YES”!

Once we get it all back to the mainland, we plan to put all the pieces on a flatbed truck to transport to Michigan. We’ll have to make crates and boxes for the small stuff, so it won’t blow away.

Also, we’d like to see if we can find some of the big pieces that have been previously removed from the wreck. If we can find them, we’d like to see if we can buy them back so that as many of the pieces of Sandbar Mitchell are back together again.

The Team

Patrick is 30 years old. He was born to love aviation. He is a certified FAA mechanic (with Aircraft and Power Plant Certification) He has his own little business called Legends of Aces Aviation where he restores and maintains warbird aircraft.

Todd is 49 years old. He grew up with a father that tinkered with and flew a small two-seater airplane that was powered by a little two-cylinder engine. We have a picture of Todd at 2 years old trying to help dad repair his airplane with a pair of pliers. Todd now works in the IT industry as a certified project manager. He is also the founding Director of the Aeronca Aircraft History Museum, an online virtual museum that supports the preservation of antique civilian airplanes.

This whole project started in January when Todd received a phone call from a friend in Fairbanks. Actually, it goes back before that. Patrick knew about Sandbar Mitchell for over 10 years. She was always in the back of his mind, but recovery never seemed possible. You know how life always seems to have other priorities. Then in May of 2012 he stumbled across a 1992 magazine article that featured the crashed B-25. It was like a sign. Then when Todd got a call from our Fairbanks friend and asked him about Sandbar Mitchell. He knew about it! He gave us the name of another friend that knew more. And you know the rest. We have spent nearly every waking hour since that cold January day working on this.

The Excitement

Our team member, 15-year old Logan was recently interviewed by our local radio station.  Unscripted, listen to his excitement about going to Alaska this June.

The Achievements

  • We have obtained the ownership rights from the Thorsrud family.
  • We have filed for and received approval for the necessary permits.
  • We traveled to Alaska in April to inspect the wreck for ourselves.(Yes… we brought home some pieces.)
  • We flew over it in a small airplane and took pictures from 1000 feet.
  • We talked to the chief mechanic of Sandbar Mitchell who was the person that recovered the engines after the crash. Luckily, he has pictures!
  • We consulted with many people in the Fairbanks area, built a lot of relationships and made many new friends in Alaska and within the aviation community.
  • We built the core Recovery Team. We are still seeking others who want to join the Recovery team. We have 10 slots to fill. Wanna go?
  • We created a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sandbarmitchell
  • We created a website dedicated to this effort at www.sandbarmitchell.org.
  • We formed a museum, the Warbirds of Glory Museum, with the express purpose of restoring her to flying condition over the next few years.
  • We have been speaking at EAA meetings, and having open houses.
  • We started collecting donations for the recovery and future restoration from anyone that believes in us.
  • We created a video and put it on YouTube.  Yep.. that’s Todd’s voice.
  • We were interviewed by Public Radio at KUAC in Alaska and broadcasted on April 1st.
  • We were interviewed by several local newspapers. We expect more in the near future.
  • We haven’t watched TV in 5 months.
  •  

Your Support

Your contribution will be used to help fund our recovery effort. This will supplement some of the funding we have already earned from people that have heard our story, believe in our mission and believe in our passion so much that they have provided a donation. Your money will help pay for our airline tickets, airboat transportation to the sandbar, lodging, tools, supplies, motor freight, acquisition of missing parts, and other expenses.

This is such a rare event and we hope you will be involved. Be a part of this adventure and follow our progress.  Have a piece of Sandbar Mitchell to display.

Our Thanks

Thank you in advance for your support.  We deeply appreciate your trust in our vision and your willingness to grant us this privilege to preserve a part  American aviation history.  We are eternally grateful for any contribution you can make.  Every dollar will help.

Your Rewards

$1 Reward - Email of appreciation from Patrick and Todd.  You will receive our project updates through Kickstarter.

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$5 Reward - Email of appreciation from Patrick and Todd plus your name will be listed on our website in recognition of your membership in the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team

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$10 Reward - Signed digital Certificate of Appreciation emailed to you in PDF format plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$25 Reward - A matted 1-inch by 1-inch piece of Sandbar Mitchell with a Certificate of Authenticity, suitable for framing, will be mailed to you plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$40 Reward - Sandbar Mitchell B-25 Recovery Team T-Shirt - Black shirt with white. *** STRETCH GOAL SPECIAL *** For existing Backers prior to June 5th, 2013, see Update #26 for instructions on how to receive this t-shirt in addition to your existing reward when you increase your pledge by $40 or more. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

$40 Reward - Sandbar Mitchell T-Shirt mailed to you plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$60 Reward - Sandbar Mitchell T-Shirt plus a  5x7 matted 1-inch by 1-inch piece of Sandbar Mitchell with a Certificate of Authenticity, suitable for framing plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as part of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$100 Reward - Double matted 2-inch by 2-inch piece of Sandbar Mitchell with a signed Certificate of Authenticity, suitable for framing plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$250 Reward - Embroidered Sandbar Mitchell Jacket mailed to you plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$500 Reward - 12" x 6" Engraved Piece of Sandbar Mitchell mailed to you plus You become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$750 Reward - A custom-made 12" model of Sandbar Mitchell with a 1" x 1" piece of Sandbar Mitchell attached to the base. AND You become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team AND your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$1500 Reward - A custom-made 17" model of Sandbar Mitchell with a 2" x 2" piece of Sandbar Mitchell attached to the base plus you become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team plus your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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$5,000 Reward - Signed B-25 Propeller Blade Reproduction - A full-scale replica B-25 Hamilton Standard propeller blade on a beautiful wooden stand restored by Patrick and signed by the Sandbar Mitchell Recovery Crew. This propeller blade came from a B-25 on display in Florida in the 1990s. This excellent reproduction is constructed out of fiberglass. Great conversation piece for any shop, hangar, or man cave. Only 2 available.

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$8,500 Reward - An extremely rare, three-bladed, Hamilton Standard, full-feathering replica propeller which was hand restored by Patrick and his crew at his workshop. This propeller came from a B-25 on display in Florida in the 1990s.This excellent reproduction has blades constructed of fiberglass.The 12-foot 7-inch diameter of this showpiece requires a minimum ceiling height of 10.5 feet. Whether displayed indoors or outdoors, your friends or customers will marvel at this awesome tribute to our WWII heroes.

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$10,000 Reward - Unique and custom-built using an actual 1940's-era 9-cylinder Wright Whirlwind J6 R975 engine, this Radial Engine Table has a one-half inch thick, 70" diameter tempered glass top.The table height is 30".   This large table seats 8 to 10 people comfortably.  Regale the glorious stories of aviation days-gone-by around this masterpiece. Entertain, work or dine at this artfully crafted table.  See photo.Cheap-ass folding chairs optional.

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Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

1. We may not get it all done in 10 days. Possible Solution: The core team will stay longer and we will utilize help from local Fairbanks friends that have offered to help.

2. We cannot fit it all onto one 53-foot flatbed truck. Some of the less critical parts will stay in Fairbanks until we obtain additional funding to ship it home.

FAQ

Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.

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    Sandbar Mitchell B-25 Recovery Team T-Shirt - Black shirt with white. *** STRETCH GOAL SPECIAL *** For existing Backers prior to June 5th, 2013, see Update #26 for instructions on how to receive this t-shirt in addition to your existing reward when you increase your pledge by $40 or more.

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    Matted 2-inch by 2-inch piece of Sandbar Mitchell with a signed Certificate of Authenticity, double-matted suitable for framing, will be mailed to you. AND You become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team AND your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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    A custom-made 12" model of Sandbar Mitchell with a 1" x 1" piece of Sandbar Mitchell attached to the base. AND You become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team AND your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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    A custom-made 17" model of Sandbar Mitchell with a 2" x 2" piece of Sandbar Mitchell attached to the base. AND You become a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team AND your name will be listed on our website as a member of the Sandbar Mitchell Support Team.

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    Signed B-25 Propeller Blade Reproduction - A full scale replica B-25 Hamilton Standard propeller blade on a beautiful wooden stand restored by Patrick and signed by the Sandbar Mitchell Recovery Crew. This propeller blade came from a B-25 on display in Florida in the 1990s. This excellent reproduction is constructed out of fiberglass. Great conversation piece for any shop, hangar, or man cave. Only 2 available.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
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    B-25 Propeller Reproduction - An extremely rare, three-bladed, Hamilton Standard, full-feathering replica propeller which was hand restored by Patrick and his crew at his workshop. This propeller came from a B-25 on display in Florida in the 1990s. This excellent reproduction has blades constructed of fiberglass. The 12-foot 7-inch diameter of this showpiece requires a minimum ceiling height of 10.5 feet. Whether displayed indoors or outdoors, your friends or customers will marvel at this awesome tribute to our WWII heroes. Only 1 available.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
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    Radial Engine Table - Unique and custom-built using an actual 1940's-era 9-cylinder Wright Whirlwind J6 R975 engine, this Radial Engine Table has a one-half inch thick, 70" diameter tempered glass top. The table height is 30". This large table seats 8 to 10 people comfortably. Regale the glorious stories of aviation days-gone-by around this masterpiece. Entertain, work or dine at this artfully crafted table. See photo. Cheap-ass folding chairs optional.

    Estimated delivery:
    Ships within the US only
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