Sandbar Mitchell Warbird of Glory Museum

The Recovery Of North American B-25J 44-30733
Sandbar Mitchell covered in snow.

The recovery of Sandbar Mitchell started in January of 2013, when Patrick Mihalek and Todd Trainor first made contact with a local resident in Fairbanks, Alaska. One phone conversation led to another and the pair were in contact with Sandbar Mitchells former mechanic, Jim Anderson. Jim’s last effort on Sandbar Mitchell was in June of 1969, when he worked to remove both engines from the aircraft after the forced landing. Over the next few months, Patrick and Todd worked on obtaining ownership of the aircraft from the Thorsrud family, as well as applying for the necessary recovery permits from the state of Alaska. With only pictures available from a published article in a 1992 magazine, it was necessary to get recent pictures of Sandbar Mitchell. A Fairbanks resident made a trip, via snow machine, in early February to take photographs of the aircraft. To view our first look at Sandbar Mitchell please CLICK HERE.

Visual Inspection Of Sandbar Mitchell
Sandbar Mitchell through the trees.

After Patrick and Todd reviewed the long awaited pictures, it was determined that the center section of Sandbar Mitchell appeared to be undamaged and in good condition. On April 4, 2013, Patrick and Todd traveled, via snow machine, to the sandbar where the B-25 emergency landed 44 years prior. Due to the arctic desert climate in Fairbanks, Alaska, the remains of the aircraft showed little signs of corrosion. The recovery was a go. All permits approved and the final recovery plan was finished. For more pictures of the April, 2013 visit to Sandbar Mitchell CLICK HERE.

Heading To Alaska
Patrick duscussing the recovery with the team

The day finally arrived, June 22, 2013, when the Sandbar Mitchell recovery team gathered in Brighton, Michigan. They were ready to start the mission of recovering the B-25 known as Sandbar Mitchell.

Recovery Day One

The morning of June 23, 2013, started with a safety briefing at Fort Wainwright military base in Fairbanks, Alaska. Because the sandbar was located in the danger zone of the military gunnery range, the team had to learn about the hazards of unexploded ordinance and the types of ordinance that could be located on the sandbar. After the safety briefing was over, the recovery team split up into two groups. Team One traveled to the sandbar to clear a path and the surrounding area around the aircraft, while Team Two built the wooden lifting stands for the center section. The trip down the Tanana River in a flat-bottomed riverboat to the sandbar took around 20 minutes each way. To view more pictures of the days activities please CLICK HERE.

Recovery Day Two

June 24, 2013. The days task included Patrick concentrating on removing the remains of the aluminum borate tank from inside the bomb bay of the Mitchell. This involved using a reciprocating saw, carefully cutting 12” sections of the tank one piece at a time. The rest of the team worked hard on installing the lifting stands under the wings and finishing clearing the area around the aircraft. Other activities that the day included removing the inboard flaps and hand digging out the remaining portion of the lower half of the rear fuselage. To view more pictures of the days activities please CLICK HERE.

Recovery Day Three

June 25, 2013. Now with the borate tank removed from the bomb bay section of the fuselage the team was able to gain access to the attaching hardware to remove the remaining parts of the forward and aft fuselage sections. There was still a lot of small tasks that needed completion. This included disconnecting the hydraulic lines and cables as well as removing castings for the flap system. To view more pictures of days activities please CLICK HERE.

Recovery Day Four

June 26, 2013. Disassembly of the major components of the airframe continues. The goal for the day was to remove the remaining parts and assemblies needed to remove the forward and aft sections of the fuselage. The team was also working on a special side project to create a memorial on the sandbar telling the story of Edgar and Herm and the B-25. As the day ended, some of Sandbar Mitchells parts left the sandbar via riverboat. To view more pictures of days activities please CLICK HERE.

Recovery Day Five

June 27th, 2013. At 2:35pm Alaskan time, exactly 44 years to the day, Sandbar Mitchell crash landed on the sandbar in 1969. Patrick conducted a ceremony to dedicate a memorial honoring Edgar Thorsrud and Herm Gallaher for their service as firefighters with the entire recovery team gathered at the site. The remaining time that afternoon included removing the remaining sections of the fuselage off the island via riverboat. To view more pictures of days activities please CLICK HERE.

Recovery Day Six

Video courtesy of Hemlock Films "The Restorers"

July 5th, 2013. The final morning that Sandbar Mitchell will rest on the Tanana River sandbar. At this time, most of the recovery team returned home to Michigan, with just Patrick, Todd, Anna and local volunteers remaining. The complete airlift mission lasted only 10 minutes. We are very grateful to Construction Helicopters Inc. out of Howell, Michigan for donating the airlift of Sandbar Mitchells center section. To view more pictures of the center section being airlifted please CLICK HERE.

Starting The Journey Home To Michigan

July 6th, 2013. The recovery of Sandbar Mitchell from the Tanana River sandbar was complete. To prepare the center section for the trip home to Michigan, the remaining parts of the outer wing panels, the leading edge and trailing edge needed to be removed. After two days of disassembly, packing and loading, Sandbar Mitchell was ready to start her journey home. To view more pictures of preparing Sandbar Mitchell for the trip home please CLICK HERE.

Arriving At The Warbirds Of Glory Museum

July 14, 2013. After a 3,700 mile long journey from Alaska to Michigan, Sandbar Mitchell arrived at the Warbirds Of Glory Museums storage hangar where she was unloaded and celebrated by all those involved. To view more pictures from the arrival day of Sandbar Mitchell please CLICK HERE.