The group that purchased the World War II-era B-25 bomber now at Columbia’s downtown airport wants to buy a second bomber — and this one could fly.
The S.C. Historic Aviation Foundation has located one of the rare planes in a nearby state. Foundation officials said it could be purchased and restored to flying condition for about $300,000.
That’s significantly less than the $800,000 it says it would take to buy a flying aircraft on the open market or the $1 million and up it would take to restore the aircraft they presently own — an aircraft recovered from Lake Greenwood in the 1980s — to flying condition.
“The heritage of the B-25 is particularly unique in South Carolina, and having a flying example would be a much more tangible tribute to all the airmen that trained here during World War II and particularly to the 268 men who died in training accidents here,” said Gary Byrd, the foundation’s vice president.
B-25 bombers were medium-sized, two-engine bombers that flew throughout World War II. They were used for bombing and strafing enemy positions from Europe to the Pacific.
Most famously, Col. Jimmy Doolittle led a raid on Tokyo with the planes, loading 16 of the usually land-based bombers on an aircraft carrier and bombing Japan shortly after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.
South Carolina was the main training center for B-25s during World War II, with Columbia as the central training base and satellite bases in Greenville, Charleston, Myrtle Beach and smaller cities throughout the state.
Doolittle’s men volunteered for their dangerous mission at the Columbia Army Air Base (now Columbia Metropolitan Airport) and began their training there.
Foundation officials want to augment the Greenwood bomber they now own, with a flying version.
The Greenwood plane, widely known as Skunkie, is presently housed at the historic Curtiss-Wright Hangar at Columbia’s Hamilton-Owens Airport.
Another group is trying to turn the hangar into a restaurant and banquet facility with the plane as a centerpiece and other displays from the city’s aviation past.
“We would have two planes,” Byrd said. “One for a static display and one as a flying model that could serve as an ambassador for the state of South Carolina” at air shows and other events.
The owners, who foundation officials declined to disclose, are willing to accept $100,000 as a down payment and the balance to be paid over three years, Byrd said.
The foundation is seeking help in raising the down payment from individuals, history organizations, government agencies or companies.
“We developed a relationship with the owner, and he is willing to sell it to us for that price,” Byrd said. “The guy is bending over backwards, but we are having trouble coming up with the grubstake.”
To help or get more information go to schistoricaviation.org or contact Byrd at firstname.lastname@example.org.