War-era bomber in town

Maid in the Shade offering tours, flights on cross-country summer flight

  • Thu Jul 31st, 2014 11:00am
  • News

Pilot Spike McLane gives the thumbs up from the cockpit of a B-25 bomber

By Andrea Peacock/News staff

A Second World War bomber landed at the Victoria Flying Club on Monday.

The Maid in the Shade, a B-27J Mitchell aircraft, is flown by the Commemorative Air Force out of Arizona and will be at the Victoria International Airport until Sunday.

On April 18, 1942, 16 B-25s, including the Maid in the Shade (which is not its original name), bombed Tokyo four months after Pearl Harbour.

After the war, the B-25 continued to serve as a fire suppression (water) bomber.

This particular plane, after 28 years of restoration, took its first flight five years ago in Mesa, Arizona, where it now calls home.

Before giving it to the Commemorative Air Force, a non-profit volunteer-run organization, a man in Tucson, Arizona bought the plane for $1,800 for scrap metal, said pilot Spike McLane.

“He gave it to us and we took it apart to put it in our museum, then later on decided to fix it up to the point where we could fly it.”

McLane is a retired U.S. Air Force mechanic and airline pilot.

The plane sat for so long in the hanger during the restoration period that people gave it the nickname ‘the hanger queen’.

This lead to the current name, Maid in the Shade.

According to McLane, there was nothing specifically wrong with the plane, but it sat for so long that it needed a total overhaul.

The team of volunteers behind the restoration and upkeep of the plane work on it three days a week all year.

“If we’re not working on it … we’re flying it,” said McLane.

One special element of the plane is the inside of the bomber doors, where people who have flown that plane or similar ones have signed their names and written the names of missions they were on.

“It’s humbling for us to be able to take it out and show the veterans, to see the tears well up in them,” said McLane.

Ramona Reynolds, president of the Victoria Flying Club added, “They don’t want those people to be forgotten.”

Reynolds said having the B-25 in town will be a great learning opportunity for people of all ages who either want a tour inside the plane, or those wanting to go up for a ride in the sky.

“I have a friend who has booked a flight for her [12-year-old] son, and he’s dying to be a pilot,” she said. “He knows everything about every airplane,and this is just a really exciting opportunity for him.”

The Commemorative Air Force is on a tour with the B-25, coming from Penticton to the Saanich Peninsula and is off to Boundary Bay next week. The plane will be at the Victoria Flying Club until Sunday, August 3. Members of the public are welcome to have a look inside for $5, or book a flight in the plane for either $295 or $650.