This is the January 2019 update on our North American B-25H. There is much to talk about our progress on the B-25H. The expertise and insight of each of the Bill Howe's B-25 restoration crew is a huge benefit to what we will ultimately be able to display to NEAM visitors in the not-too-distant future.
The 75-millimeter cannon was installed in the nose of the aircraft in the fall of 2018. The four .50 caliber nose guns made by students at Chicopee Comprehensive High School were built using the plans originally created for use on the B-29. The oversize Edgewater compensators on the guns would not allow them to be used in the nose of the B-25 due to space requirements. However, the guns made by the students for use by waist gunners did not have the Edgewater type compensator. Don Durner and Ken Stino disassembled four of those guns and found that, without the Edgewater, the guns would work in the nose, with some modifications. Ken handled the initial machining that allowed the guns to sit in the front mounts, confirming that there would be enough room for the ammo feed chutes. Later, he created rear mounts for each gun.
Once the guns were securely in place, Ken and Don worked out what needed to be done in order to attach the ammo feed chutes to the breach of each gun, not an easy thing to do as, again, these were guns constructed for application to B-29 turrets. After more machine work, Ken was able to mate the pieces to the guns. We now can run the feed chutes from the ammo cans, which will sit atop the gun positions, directly to the guns; this is something we would not have been able to do without the know-how of these two dedicated volunteers.
While Ken did the machine work, Don was busy with the layout and construction of much needed parts that were not in our airplane: the collection/discharge chutes for the ammo clips which held each .50 caliber round and the shell casings. Each type chute is different - left side, right side and center. Don could only rely on pictures in order to determine the orientation and dimension of the chutes. He has finished the prototypes and is working toward completing this part of the project. When not working on the discharge chutes, Don repaired and reconditioned the phenolic sheets which funnel the shell casings out the bottom of the nose section. He also installed a port for the 75mm cannon.
Rock Desilets has been working on the mounts for the waist guns. The gimbals needed to be modified in order to better hold the guns. After some machine work, the guns are in position and they look great.
New gasket has been installed around the entire lower nose section and new mounts for the cockpit instrument panel have been installed, as well. That work was done by Adam Howe.
Don is formulating a plan as to how best re-attach the top turret ring to the plexiglass and re-install the guns. Warmer weather will allow more of that detail work and the reattachment of the nose to the airplane. The tail gun canvas shroud, tail gunner seat, and canvas ports for the waist guns are works in progress. A major cleaning of the plane in the Spring is planned. Small detail work will continue: spot painting, tracking down parts/pieces, cleaning, sand blasting. We hope that by the Summer, the B-25 would be ready to display.
The restoration of the B-25 is mostly complete, but we continue on several details to enhance the aircraft. The volunteer team finished bomb bay door repairs and fitment including a manual crank, freed up the hydraulic mechanism including the cylinder and manual chain drive, and fabricated operating rods etc. We handmade the aluminum waist-gun flanges to mount canvas covers, finished waist gun swivels and mounting, and finished nose gun mountings and ammo chutes. The team rebuilt one and fabricated one shock assembly for armor plate between nose and cockpit. While on the museum floor, we added inert ammo in belts for realism and fixed the hood struts to keep the hood from dropping. In addition, we restored the 2000# bomb for display below the aircraft.
For the future, we are negotiating for the trade of a more accurate B-25H gun turret.