Warbirds at Falcon Field, April 16, 2006

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I was in Arizona for over a week touring the airports in the vicinity of Phoenix. I visited Sky Harbor International Airport, Williams-Gateway Airport, Luke Air Force Base, Goodyear Airport, and Falcon Field.

On Saturday, April 16, I visited Falcon Field near Mesa. It is home to the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. North American B-25H Mitchell Barbie III and Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Liberty Belle are visiting Falcon Field.

I had spotted North American B-25H Mitchell, N5584N Barbie III flying over Paradise Valley earlier that morning. It was offering nostalgia rides from Falcon Field.

B-25H Barbie III served the Army Air Force as 43-4106 and its construction number is 98-21107. Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College of Stillwater, Oklahoma acquired it in May 1946. Bendix Aviation Corporation of Detroit, Michigan registered it as N5584N in August 1951. Bendix Corporation of Towson, Maryland acquired it in 1961. Richard D. Lambert of Plainfield, Illinois acquired it in 1970. Heritage in Flight Museum of Springfield, Illinois took possession of it in 1972. Walter Wild and Louis A. Fulgaro of the Weary Warriors Squadron of Rockford, Illinois bought the decaying airframe in 1980 and restored it as 43-4380 with a gun nose containing a 75mm cannon and four 50 calibre machine guns. It made its first flight after restoration on May 19, 1992 at Rockford.

B-25H 43-4106 at Searcy Field, Stillwater, Oklahoma in 1946. Photo courtesy: Woody Harris

Lockheed PV-2 Harpoon, N86492 served the Navy as BuNo 37507 and its construction number is 15-1473. Delaware Warbirds LLC of Wilmington, Delaware gave it its current registration in 2002.

N86492 is restored in Royal Navy colors.

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, N390TH Liberty Belle is visiting the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force, which operates B-17G, N9323Z Sentimental Journey in order to make use of equipment and ramp space for engine repairs.

The Vega division of Lockheed delivered Liberty Belle to the Army Air Force as 44-85734 and its construction number is 8643-VE. Esperado Mining Company of Altus, Oklahoma bought it as scrap on June 25, 1947 and sold it to Pratt and Whitney Engines of Hartford, Connecticut for $2,700 on November 19, 1947. It was registered as N5111N and modified to carry a turbo-prop engine on its nose. Pratt and Whitney T34 and T64 engines were tested on this airplane. It was donated to the Bradley Air Museum of Windsor Locks, Connecticut on June 16, 1967. A tornado struck the museum on October 3, 1979 and inflicted major damage on the five-engined testbed. Tom Reilly Vintage Aircraft of Kissimee, Florida acquired the wreckage in 1987, but it remained stored at Windsor Locks until 1992. The Randsburg Corp of Portland, Oregon registered it as N817BR on July 13, 1999. Don Brooks and the Liberty Foundation of Atlanta, Georgia acquired it in 2003 and restored it to airworthy condition. It made its first flight after restoration on December 8, 2004. It flies as 42-97849.

Air Response tweaked and repaired Liberty Belle's engines, including replacing some cylinders. Air Response also adjusted the flight controls. Custom Connections was called in to fix various electrical system problems like CHT gauges and tail wheel lock indicator problems.

Liberty Belle is powered by four Wright R-1820 Cyclone, single-bank, 9-cylinder radial engines.

Link to the Liberty Foundation web site.

Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, N9323Z Sentimental Journey served the Army Air Force as 44-83514 and its construction number is 32155. It was retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona on January 27, 1959. Acme Aircraft Parts of Compton, California registered it as N9323Z on July 31, 1959. Western Air Industries of Anderson, California converted it to a fire fighting tanker in November 1960. It flew as Tanker E17. Aero Union Corporation of Chico, California flew it as Tanker C17 and Tanker 17 from June 6, 1962 until 1978. The Confederate Air Force of Midland, Texas acquired it on January 17, 1978. It flies with its original Army Air Force serial, 44-83514.

Link to the Arizona Wing of the Commemorative Air Force web site.

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