NORTH AMERICAN B-25J SANDBAR MITCHELL RECOVERY & RESTORATION
The History of Sandbar Mitchell

North American B-25J, 44-30733 was manufactured in Kansas City, KS in 1944 within the 25th block of B-25’s built. She was delivered to the USAAF on February 16, 1945.

After serving her duties with the USAAF from 1945 to 1959 as a bomber trainer at Pyote AFB, Vance AFB and, Randolph AFB she was dropped from the inventory as surplus.

After being sold in 1960 she started her civilian life as N9088Z, and was converted to a fire suppression bomber. Under the ownership of Edgar Thorsrud she flew in the interior of Alaska for the Bureau of Land Management fighting fires and dropping ash to break up the ice on the Tanana and Yukon Rivers.

On June 27, 1969 while fighting the Manley Hot Springs fire outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, she suffered a double-engine failure shortly after takeoff from Fort Wainwright. With few options available, pilot Herm Gallaher skillfully landed wheels-up on a sandbar in the Tanana River.

Two days after the forced landing, Edgar’s mechanic traveled by boat to the sandbar to remove both R-2600 engines, wheels, and control surfaces.

It was decided not to recover the Mitchell’s airframe. In the 1960’s surplus B-25 airframes were still available for less then the cost of a recovery mission.

The constant changing Tanana River yearly consumes sandbars leaving nothing behind. After years passed the sandbar remained and turned into a tree-covered island.

In 1979, 44-30733 was still a very complete B-25 airframe. Pilots would use the Mitchell as a marker point to turn into the Fairbanks International airport. She was now nicknamed Sandbar Mitchell.

Time was rough on the Mitchell, not because of Mother Nature, but of humans. Parts of the aircraft were used as target practice, scavenged for souvenirs, and cut for use of the aluminum.

Forty-four years after Sandbar Mitchell landed on the sandbar, she was recovered in July of 2013 to be restored to her former glory as a B-25J Mitchell bomber.


Historical Sandbar Mitchell Picture Gallery
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44-30733 History Timeline
· Manufactured by North American Aviation, Kansas City, KS, 1944
· Delivered to USAAF as 44-30733, February 16 1945
· Moved into storage at Garden City AAF, KS, February 1945
· Transferred to 4168th AAF Base Unit, South Plains AAF, TX, April 1946
· Transferred to 4141st AAF Base Unit, Pyote AFB, TX, August 1947
· Transferred to 3575th Pilot Training Wing Vance AFB, OK as TB-25J, November 1948
· Converted to TB-25N, March 1954
· Transferred to 3510th Combat Crew Training Wing, Randolph AFB, TX, November 1957
· Moved to Arizona Aircraft Storage Branch, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, May 1958
· Stored at Davis Monthan AFB, AZ, August 1958-1959
· Dropped from inventory as surplus, December 1959
· Sold to National Metals, Phoenix, AZ, December 1959-1960
· Registered as N9088Z
· Sold to Johnson Flying Service, Missoula, MT, December 1959-1966
· Sold to Edgar L. Thorsrud, Missoula, MT, December 1966-1970
· Converted to fire tanker
· Flew as #8Z, based in Alaska
· Forced landing on Sandbar, Fairbanks, AK, June 27, 1969
· Stripped airframe derelict at crash site, Tanana River for 44 years
· Sold to Warbirds Of Glory Museum, Brighton, MI 2013-current
· Recovered July 5, 2013