Aircraft from around the world will fly into the Payson Airport May 16 at this year’s Aero Fair and, for the first time, one of the great World War II aircraft, the B-25 Mitchell Bomber, with a wingspan of 76 feet, will thunder down the runway.
The North American B-25 Mitchell Bomber is one of the most famous and recognizable twin-engine bombers ever produced.
It is best known for its role in the Doolittle raid on Japan in 1942. The mission took place when 16 B-25s flew from the USS Hornet aircraft carrier to make the first attack on Japan following Pearl Harbor.
Payson resident Ward Johnson was a crewmember on a B-25 during WWII. Johnson, along with Aero Fair coordinator Dick Garmon, have been instrumental in bringing the restored B-25, Barbie III, to the Payson Aero Fair this year. The plane actually flew in combat.
Johnson said that in December 1941 he saw a picture of a tail gunner and said, “That’s what I want to be.”
Johnson was only 17, but he decided to leave school and join the Air Force.
“I was with the 1st Air Commando and they asked for volunteers to go on a secret mission with the B-25,” Johnson said. The year was 1944 and Johnson was 19. “I was told to leave in an hour.”
The secret mission turned out to be Project 9, and the B-25 crew was on their way to Hailakandi, India to fight the Japanese in the Burma Theater.
Johnson wants the children of Payson to get a glimpse of the events in WWII history that included the B-25 Bomber.
Out of those remaining B-25s, the Barbie III is the last flying H-model, which is noted for the installation of a 75mm cannon in the nose and its configuration as a ground attack aircraft.
Also at the Aero Fair, expect to see planes from around the world, including:
• The SIAI Marchetti 260, developed in Italy in 1966, is in use as a military trainer.
• The Nanchang Haiyan C Sea Swallow, built in the People’s Republic of China. It is used for low-level photoreconnaissance and is the only one in the world owned by a civilian, Gary Bundini, from Prescott.
• The Supermarine Spitfire, which began its fighting life as a British single-place fighter aircraft used by the Royal Air Force in 1936.
• George Berendses will bring his three-quarter model of the English WWII Spitfire. Children who made their model Spitfire airplane at Home Depot, can display it alongside the real plane.
• The SC7 Skyvan, or Short Boxcar, built in England and used by Bravo Partners, Inc. to haul cargo. It is also used to train Special Forces in parachute operations.
• The Bell 206 helicopter Helitack will demonstrate a water drop.
The Tonto National Forest Helitack program began in 1976 and is a system of managing and using helicopters and their crews to perform aerial and other firefighting duties.
The Helitack transports Hotshot crews and supplies to wildland fires for initial attack, and water drops with the Bell 206 L4 light helicopter.
With all the aircraft to see, children’s hangar, vendors and food available, Garmon said the Aero Fair is a time for families to enjoy the day, learn about the airport and how the aviation community serves Payson.