The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 25, 2013

Bomber taken to Livingston County for restoration

BRIGHTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Crash-landed in Alaska, scavenged for parts, abandoned for 44 years and overgrown with trees, the B-25 Mitchell bomber would have been forgotten.

Brighton Township residents Patrick Mihalek and Todd Trainor made sure that didn't happen to the World War II-era plane.

They rescued it and brought it to Livingston County, according to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus ( http://bit.ly/14erPJe ).

With a team of 12 volunteers, the two men flew to the Alaskan wilderness in June and took apart the plane. A helicopter airlifted the 2,000-pound midsection, and a flat-bottom hauling boat took the rest by river.

"Everything was a great success," Mihalek said. "In four days, we had pretty much the whole aircraft disassembled."

A truck driver then transported the plane and pieces 3,700 miles from Alaska to Michigan. Everything arrived on July 15.

Volunteers and a team from Keller Well Drilling moved all the pieces into a hangar at Brighton Airport off Hyne Road in Brighton Township.

Mihalek and Trainor plan to restore the plane and make it the centerpiece of the Warbirds of Glory Museum. The museum will showcase World War II aircraft and allow Mihalek to share his passion for planes.

Mihalek said having great people help with the recovery was his favorite part.

"This was a dream of mine, and I couldn't have done it without them," he said.

Fairbanks residents loaned them tools, trucks, forklifts and generators.

Trainor said the people of Fairbanks "came out of the woodwork to help us."

The recovery team brought guns for a possible encounter with bears or moose, but they saw neither. Instead, they met thousands of mosquitoes.

Trainor said the most amazing part was watching a helicopter lift the midsection.

"It was a tornado," he said of the wind gusts from the helicopter. "It was fast. You get it hooked up, and it was gone."

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