Daily Reports

Six Days to Takeoff

47°36’52.98”N, 122°21’54.61”W




^ Fair weather day

We’re hoping for about six of these.  The good news is Nick Baratta has joined up as photographer.  He will travel from New York on the 26th to brief with the flight crew in Duxford on the 27th.  If weather cooperates, Grumpy will leave Duxford on the morning of the 29th with a bit of ceremony from the locals and the RAF.  The destination that day will be Reykjarvik, Iceland (BIRK).  Subsequent planned stops include Goose Bay (CYYR), Dryden (CYHE), Cutbank (KCTB) and Paine Field (KPAE).  In Canada, a stop or two may be added to honor groups of WW II aviation veterans.  It should be a good trip provided Hurricane Bill lives a short life.

Tomorrow’s the Day

Ignoring jet lag, the crew assembled to consider ditching on water and ice.  Quite an ice breaker.  Morale is high.  The weather today suggests autumn but prospects for tomorrow are good.  A bit of convective activity robbed our wee hotel of its internet capability so we have migrated to nearby Cambridge and reliable resources.  The immersion suits fit so we need not visit the RAF supply house tonight.  Tomorrow we rendezvous at 8 a.m. for a 9 a.m. departure.  The runway length at Duxford is minimal given our takeoff weight, so we’re skipping dessert.  For the first two-plus hours, we will fly above England and Scotland with Kirkwall in Orkney being a point to consider fuel burn rates and range.  The total flight time to Iceland will be just short of seven hours.  Without intending to offend the Weather Gods, we have booked hotel rooms in Iceland.

Once the airplane checked-out and the crew had its time together, we took possession of the Pooley Sword and looked about the magnificent projects around Duxford Airport (including a certain Mk. IX Spit bound for Seattle next Spring).  Take a look at the Photo Gallery and share the love.  The crew of Grumpy wishes all of you a safe and warm Saturday.

Day 1 (Flight Time: 6.2 hours)

I’m reflecting on a special day.  It began eighteen hours ago with preparations for take-off from Duxford.  At the appointed hour, families and friends of the Duxford-based crew members appeared in happy anticipation.  It was as close to a carnival mood as immersion suits would allow.  Thanks to all of you who have given so much to make this trip possible.  Following takeoff into a clear blue sky, we flew a couple of photo passes before heading for the Highlands.  The English countryside was summer glorious until Liverpool when the North Sea weather we expected began to fulfill our expectations.  Scotland lived up to its reputation.  In dodging clouds we went as low as 1,000 and tried to get above at 5,000, somewhat successfully.  There’s about a two hour interval in the North Atlantic when you’re outside the radio range of air traffic control unless a friendly airliner agrees to pass along a position report.  For us, this period concluded with the clear words “Iceland Radio.”  As if reading the same script, the clouds got thinner and the seas, calmer.  By the time we reached our destination the day was crystal clear and the headwinds had gone on holiday.  One unfortunate episode occurred shortly after landing.  A taildragger pilot taxied to see the B-25 without noticing a police car in its path.  On impact, the wooden propeller  turned to toothpicks.  Happily, the only other loss was pilot pride.  I guess Grumpy is quite a distraction.  Pilots and crew to bed.  “Goose” tomorrow (Goose Bay).  Enjoy the pictures.

Day 2 (Flight Time: 7.1 hours)

Today began with a spectacular sunrise over Iceland.  A gathering of aviation enthusiasts traded part of Sunday for our takeoff.

A note about our aircraft as you may have an interest in engineering and operations.  Thus far, the aircraft has performed very well.  During the first day’s flight of six hours’ duration, the right engine required three gallons more oil than the left while burning cooler than the left.  We’re monitoring the situation today in the seven-plus hours it will take us to get to Goose Bay.  It may not be anything (each engine holds 28 gallons of oil), but the asymmetry deserves attention.

Crew compatibility might be better, but I’m not sure how.  All five of us have a passion, four for aviation and one for photography.  When you lose track of time, you know passion.  Conversations touch on loved ones, aircraft for sale and “characters we have known.”  There’s a fair bit of humor and occasional, casual brilliance.

The coast of Greenland provided this day’s highlights.  Five votes in favor.  The forecast for tomorrow suggests a delay in our departure.  Environment Canada has an excellent web site if you want to learn our situation.  Whatever the weather, tomorrow will be good because we have reached the stage of the trip when we can pack away our water-ditch survival gear.

Tonight the crew voted to include Edmonton on our itinerary as a group of dedicated B-25 fans based there needs a boost for a museum and B-25 restoration project.  After that we hope to head south and share Grumpy with those who live in Western Washington.

Several pictures have been added to the “Photo Gallery” including a few crew favorites Nick took yesterday.

Day 3 (Flight Time: 10.9 hours)

The support we received at Goose Bay was first rate.  Preparing to leave, we decided to attempt Edmonton rather than spend Monday night in Dryden.  Our intermediate fuel stop, Churchill, does not pump aviation gas from a fixed location as many of the aircraft in the North have converted to turbine power (requiring jet fuel).  Consequently, when we arrive Churchill we will be afforded a teambuilding opportunity in filling a Mitchell from drums.  More shades of WWII.

Weather out of Goose was marginal.  We carried ice for the first hour as it was impossible to dodge all the clouds.  Grumpy gave up about 20 mph due to additional weight, change of wing shape and reduced engine performance; all in all, not bad.  She didn’t miss a stroke.  Then, as conditions improved, the ice fell off, some of it hitting our tail.  No doubt anti-aircraft explosions provided similar jolts.

My English friends are impressed by the beauty and enormity of Canada, now that we can see it.  They wonder why more people have not settled the North.  I reminded them of certain small aviators at lower altitudes, and the average annual temperature.  One pilgrim was fishing next to his de Havilland Beaver, noticed us, and called us on his radio.  He properly identified us as a B-25 Mitchell.  And he thought he would enjoy solitude!  We then crossed the Hudson Bay in well over two hours (about 500 miles).

Landing in Churchill, we executed a fueling of eight barrels in less than an hour.  This year when the weather turned warm following a wet spring, the no-see-ums, black flies and sand bugs all joined the world at once.  They created the only dark clouds in the sky.  So we really didn’t see much of Churchill, looking about for polar bears and whales as we overflew the grain terminal defining that settlement’s architecture.  Perhaps we will explore the area again some day, before or after bug season.

Setting course for the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton, we witnessed the remarkable transition from the Hudson Bay waterways to the farms of the prairie.  John Romain attempted to rationalize from the air, cabin location decisions every 50 miles or so when we saw someone’s favorite get-away.  There’s a connection one feels with the planet in such a flight as this.  The astronauts speak about it.  Of course they ponder in relative silence while we contemplate life between what sounds like two happy jackhammers.

On entering Edmonton air space, the tower at Edmonton International Airport requested a low pass.  We delivered.  Then we made another low pass at City Centre Airport to be greeted by a large crowd of enthusiasts and media.  Tuesday we will work with the Alberta Aviation Museum to advance its agenda.  Photos as soon as the Photography Department awakens.

Day 4 (Flight Time: 0 hours)

This day was spent with the wonderful staff of the Alberta Aviation Museum.  We viewed their B-25 restoration and the many excellent displays.  Executive Director Tom Hinderks exudes the kind of infectious enthusiasm necessary for a vintage aviation institution to thrive.  Our arrival gave a boost to the volunteer corps.  The evening meal at the most wonderful Coast Hotel gave us an opportunity to present pictures and tales of our journey to a distinguished audience of Edmontonians.  We also displayed the Pooley sword we have carried in honor of the lost bomber crews.  The visit was featured on the CBC “National” news.

In the afternoon, a distinguished gentleman (Tony Cashman) asked if I would visit a B-25 pilot who at 89 had suffered a fracture of a back bone and was consequently hospitalized.  It was a pleasure later that afternoon to meet Mr. Stout.  Despite his pain, he flashed a truly brilliant smile.  He had been waiting all day in his hospital bed to meet a member of Grumpy’s crew.  He told stories of the three B-25s he ferried to Europe during WWII along with five other bombers, presumably B-17s but I can’t say for sure as we never got beyond talking about B-25s.  Apparently planes were in such short supply that he returned home by ship after each flight, no doubt anxious about the U-boats that might get in the way.  This explains why Stout ferried only eight bombers in two years.  A contributing factor was the weather.  He spent the entire month of January, 1945, in Goose Bay when nine feet of snow covered the first floor of his barracks.  We exchanged ideas about how to fly the B-25 and he and his friend Tony (who joined me) related to one another as the best friends they are.  While I’ve had more than my share of visits to hospitals, this one was truly gratifying.  What a wonderful gentleman.  I told him we would be taking off at 10 sharp on Wednesday morning and would dogleg over his hospital room so he could hear Grumpy.  (Since the hospital is directly beneath the flight path, I knew we would deliver.)  He will be in my thoughts during the flight to Abbotsford on Wednesday.

As this was a “zero flight time” day, we will share more of the pictures already taken.  Nick takes about 600 pictures per day.

Day 5 (Flight Time: 3.3 hours)

We decided to fly to Abbotsford as issues linger concerning reimportation of an ex-military bomber.  The weather forecast indicated morning fog in the valleys with burn-off likely.  On arriving at the airport, we were again honored by aviation enthusiasts and members of the media.  We departed on schedule at 10 a.m., proceeding south over Mr. Stout’s room in the general direction of Calgary.  Generally avoiding air space issues around Calgary, we followed charted roads and railroad tracks into the mountains via Banff, Lake Louise, Golden, then on to Kamloops.

For those of you who have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing the provincial border area (Alberta/British Columbia), it is hard to imagine a more spectacular landscape.  His confidence in the pilots now at a high point, photographer Nick spent the entire flight in the nose taking wonderful pictures, occasionally sharing his enthusiasm over the intercom.  Leaving nothing to chance, John Romain and Lee Proudfoot also drew small cameras from pockets in their flight suits and began clicking away.  It was my job to spot mountain goats and sheep as we flew near the majestic peaks.  Memories of climbing and skiing expeditions north of our flight path returned to the present tense.  As you will see in the pictures, only a small area of the overfly area was covered in clouds during our late morning crossing.  Expectations of turbulence  in the Fraser River canyon did not deter Grumpy, and were not realized, though the combination of mountains and deep valleys around the aptly named towns of Hellsgate and Hope looked like a full recipe for bumps.  We descended quickly out of Hope heading west as a ceiling of 2,000 feet was reported at Abbotsford.

On arrival, we executed our last low pass (again requested by the tower… good attitude) and landed to a welcome by the President, Air Boss and staff of the Abbotsford Air Show.  Aircraft of Historic Flight Foundation routinely perform at the August show, so a reunion of friends included an outdoor lunch.  Feelings of conclusion touched all of us.  After lunch we off-loaded the entire aircraft and sorted those items that might be returned directly to Duxford, perhaps avoiding Customs issues.  These included the satellite phone, immersion suits and other survival gear.  Each of us then posed with Grumpy one last time before leaving her in the temporary care of the Abbotsford Air Show staff.  The last leg to Paine Field will be flown when that airport reopens following the current closure to repair the main runway.

Greg Anders, President of Heritage Flight Museum in Bellingham and P-51 formation mate, took us to that facility for a personal tour.  We continued to the Puget Sound area for a wonderful welcome with friends and supporters, and then to a Pacific Northwest seafood dinner.

As we end our flying phase, in honor of my fellow crew members, I would like to share a poem by Robert Service entitled “To the Man of the High North.”

My rhymes are rough, and often in my rhyming

I’ve drifted, silver-sailed, on seas of dream,

Hearing afar the bells of Elfland chiming,

Seeing the groves of Arcadie agleam.

I was the thrall of Beauty that rejoices

From peak snow-diademed to regal star;

Yet to mine aerie ever pierced the voices,

The pregnant voices of the Things That Are.

The Here, the Now, the vast Forlorn around us;

The gold-delirium, the ferine strife;

The lusts that lure us on, the hates that hound us;

Our red rags in the patch-work quilt of Life.

The nameless men who nameless rivers travel,

And in strange valleys greet strange deaths alone;

The grim, intrepid ones who would unravel

The mysteries that shroud the Polar Zone.

These will I sing, and if one of you linger

Over my pages in the Long, Long Night,

And on some lone line lay a calloused finger,

“It’s human-true — it hits me right;”

Then will I count this loving toil well spent;

Then will I dream awhile — content, content.

  1. Rob Rohr says:

    Quick question will you be following the Blue 1 Route and if so will you be stopping in Bangor Maine,

    Thanks and Good Luck

  2. Good morning Gentlemen

    I would like to extend an invitation for you to join us at the Alberta Aviation Museum in Edmonton Alberta on your way home to Paine Field.
    Our airport (CYXD), now known as Edmonton City Centre, is the oldest licensed airport in Canada and the centre of much of the great history
    aviation in Canada.

    It was also the start of the Northwest Staging route during WW2 and saw thousands of aircraft on their way from the USA
    to Alaska…among them P39s, P63s and of course the B25.

    The Hangar that now houses our Museum was once the home of 418 (City of Edmonton) Squadron, who post war operated the B25 from this
    facility and continues to be active in our hangar and would be overjoyed to have you stop.

    One of 418’s members, Fred Guest, was a young B25 Captain with 180 Squadron (I believe the current markings of Grumpy) during WW2 and the opportunity
    to have Fred and Grumpy together is one I hope can happen.

    Our Museum is also in process of restoring a B25 back to 418 Squadron colours and configuration and to have Grumpy visit would be an inspiration.

    The Alberta Aviation Museum is Canada’s 3rd largest collection and is housed in the last double wide double long British Commonwealth Air Training Plan Hangar.

    I hope you are able to accept our invitation and have Grumpy make a little more history on her way to her new home.

    Should you be able to join us your rooms are on us at the Edmonton Coast Plaza and I can assure you that you will receive the best of Canada’s and Alberta’s

    Thomas Hinderks
    Executive Director
    Alberta Aviation Museum
    Edmonton, Alberta

  3. Jeff Geer says:

    John & Crew,

    Best of luck on bringing Grumpy home to KPAE ! We’re looking forward to seeing this magnificent aircraft soon.

    Jeff Geer
    President & Chairman
    BRAVO 369 Flight Foundation
    Ferndale, WA

  4. George Bartlett says:

    I wish you guys lots of luck. As a SSgt Navigator I remember flying from CA to Hawaii, in 1944 in a “D” model, sans guns and turret , all wing tanks loaded with 115/145 avgas, 215 gal in upperbomb bay tank, 345 gal in lower bomb bay, and 50 more gals in a tank in the rear of the plane, a total of about 1540 gals plus or minus. We had to burn less than 104 gal/
    hr before they would let us go. It was a great 14h30m flight and we landed right on the ETA. We flew on down to Palmyra, Christmas Island, Canton, Funa Futti, Esprito Santos,Guadalcanal, Bouganville, Green and Emirau. We then bombed Rabaul, Kavieng on a daily basis before going on the the Philippines. The B-25 is one hell of a plane. It had great legs, good baomb load and very reliable. I wish I were coming along and then I could say I had flown across both the Atlantic and the Pacific in a B-25-D. George Bartlett

  5. Noel Young says:

    Good luck with it all. I have had the pleasure of talking to Billy about this many times at the Bees in the Wall. Will be a once in a lifetime opportunity, sounds amazing.
    Billy, glad you have got the abolutions sorted, look forward to sharing a proper pint when you get back safe and sound!!
    Will follow you on the web
    Good luck and enjoy


    Noel Young

  6. admin says:


    Thank you for the lovely invitation. The crew will assemble at Duxford early Friday morning. Discussion of your invitation will be the first item of business. Be careful. We just might show up.


  7. admin says:


    We do not plan to stop in Bangor, but recognize that our plans may change en route. Thank you for your interest.


  8. admin

    Arrangements are in progress

    Should you make it you will have a wonderful time and make many happy

    Our media contacts are on stand by


  9. Fighter Lead says:

    “Flighter Lead” will be tracking progress in-order-to provide escort!


  10. Barry says:

    Elude the weather
    Enjoy Iceland
    Grumpy, knows its “lent lease”
    way home

    the gang @ KPAE

    Future of Flight Foudnation

  11. Clive & Merill says:

    It was so moving being there at Duxford this morning watching John, John, Lee, Billy Nick together with ground engineers prepare for takeoff. Not a cloud in the sky meant Darren the photographer in the Harvard was going to get some fine inflight pictures when “Grumpy” completed her take off and then two oval laps of Duxford and The Aircraft Restoration Hanger where she had been prepared for her return home. Family and friends together with enthusiasts had gathered to witness the engines being started at 0945 a.m and it was about 1030 a.m when “Grumpy” finally headed west climbing from the photo call height of 600 feet leaving Duxford behind on the first leg of it’s historic flight.

  12. We sent Grumpy on her way today from Duxford with a few air to air photos as she headed North. Good luck to all on board.

    John – hopefully you have recieved the pictures I have sent.

  13. Hello all! Boy, I can’t wait for this beautiful bird to come to Paine Field. A Very impressive collection you have Mr. Sessions. I’m a big fan of the P-51 Mustang and I owe you a big thanks Mr. Sessions for “Impatient Virgin?” and “Hell-ER Bust”. I heard “Hell-ER Bust” was sold and that’s to bad. But, no worries.

    I had the pleasure of meeting you Mr. Sessions, at Paine Field on General Aviation Day. And I’ve never met a nicer guy before. I’m a friend of Todd Gehrke and a member of the 352nd Fighter Group assoc. I was fairly young looking being 14 years old and I was about 6 feet tall.

    Here’s a few pictures

    Blue Skies,

    -Mitchell Babarovich

  14. So sorry not to see you depart (them slave-drivers had me at work!) but great to hear you got off to a flying start! Hope the weather is still being kind to you and you managed to bring enough layers to keep out the cold.

    Keep them props turning!

    Sharin’ the love

    Rebecca and Tim

  15. Ian Arnold says:

    Hi John,

    It was with great regret that I was prevented see you guys off from DX on Saturday in person, but now, by way of this site, I have way to catch up! I would be most grateful if you could pass on my very best regards to John, Billy & Lee for a very memorable and safe journey. I look forward to hearing all over a pint in the Barleycorn. Stay safe and enjoy.

    Ian A

  16. Mike Turner says:

    Great web site, going to enjoy tracking your journey. Wish you could do a fly by at Niagara!
    Safe flighing boys!!!

  17. Adrian Hunt says:

    Congratulations on a great accomplishment.

    The crew at FHC at Paine Field

  18. admin says:


    The crew has decided to visit Edmonton to try to give a boost to your B-25 efforts there. How might I reach you on Monday?


  19. Bill Aitchison says:

    To all the crew,

    What an achievement ! Hope you all have a fantastic time on the rest of your journey and like Ian I’ll look forward to a first hand account over a pint.
    Stay well and happy trails,


  20. Good morning to our intrepid aviaitors

    Edmonton is powering up to have you join us!!!!

    My contact 24hrs 780-907-8455

    Rooms are confirmed, final arrangements for dinner are being set.


  21. Nick and Jamie Elbourn says:

    Fantatic adventure! Good luck to John, Lee and all aboard.

  22. Congratualtlions on your safe flights. The Airport of Choice is looking forward to your arrival later this week.

  23. George Bartlett says:

    The shots of Greenland are terrific. What altitude did you fly? You all look great in your “poopy” suits. Handsonme group. What an experience. Oil is always a problem with a Wright engine. It cannot get enough of it. I am enjoying the blog.

  24. Dave Desmon says:

    John & Crew –

    The Cascade Warbirds and I are following your progress, with best wishes for a great journey, blue skies, and lower than expected oil consumption!

    We’re all looking forward to seeing you back here at PAE soon. Good luck, and have a great trip!

    Dave Desmon
    XO, Cascade Warbirds

  25. Tony & Mae Baratta says:

    Monday, August 31, 2009
    To the Great Crew of Grumpy Returns–God Bless and God Speed. To Nick Baratta, Happy Birthday on this September 1, 2009. What a special and
    incomparable Birthday Gift you received from John T. Sessions by being invited to be the photographer of this historic flight. With Lucia’s help we have
    been able to retrieve the Flight Log, Comments, Mission History, Aircraft Highlights, Flight Cress and Photo Gallery. We are thankful and have enjoyed
    the 41 photos to date. By reading the Comments–it is clear that this “plane”; it’s role in the Great War and the significant contributions by the people
    who’s contributions were so heroic and now memorialized by the work, resources, planning and genius of John Sessions/Pilot; and the participation of
    Lee Proudfoot/Pilot, John Romain/Pilot, Billy Kelly/Crew Chief and Nick Baratta, Photographer. We appreciate the significance of this journey. John, you
    have brought a dimension in our lives which is extraordinary. I am proud of my, Tony B, ( 2 & 1/2 year service in the U.S.Navy during World War II –
    gives me a perspective in relation to the Comments offered by Thomas Hindericks and George Bartlett. Again, God Bless and God Speed. Tony and Mae Baratta

  26. Greg Anders says:

    Congrats on the achievements so far.

    I still pine for participation but alas, it was not to be. I guess I’ll have to settle for the P-51 escort role… ;-)

    Your fighter escort will be on alert at Bellingham Army Airfield. Escort package includes 2 x P-51 and 1 x T-6. Merrill will be flying the T-6 with Lyle in the back seat to get a few photos of the trip across the border and the final leg down to Paine. Expectation is for Wednesday but most urgent to let Carter know if that is slipping. The Bellingham contingent is very flexible on timing so we expect to just be there when you are. 2 hour notice is plenty if comm becomes a problem. Tentative plan is to pick you up on your launch out of Abottsford, escort across the border to Bellingham for you to clear customs. Then a launch for your last leg with the escort. Suggested plan only, let us know what you want but that is what we will execute unless we hear otherwise.

    Coincidentally, I talked to Jimmy Doolittle III this morning and he wishes you well and is excited to have another Mitchell coming home to the US.

    Let us know if there is anything we can have ready for you at Bellingham. The gang is planning to turn out for that mini-arrival event and they are very excited. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure the turn time stays as short as you need to make Paine when expected.

    Tailwinds and blue skies!!


  27. Jon Alport says:

    Hi John Romain and team

    What an emotional send off on Saturday! Wont forget that experience in a hurry…
    Have been thinking of you all continually whilst you embark on your incredible journey…and reading the fab blog!

    I think grumpy is enjoying herself!!

    Love Jon, Mel, Josh, Millie & Jazzy xx

  28. K. John Jones says:

    This is very interesting to me. My father ferried a B-25 to North Africa via Brasil. He then went on to fly 71 missions (one more than was required) in North Africa and the Italian Theater (out of Corsica). Same bomb wing as in the novel ‘Catch 22′. He and his crew weathered their missions without an injury, although the plane came back with as many as 200 flak holes in it. The crew was superstitious and sorry to see him return stateside… finally! He’s 91 and living in Ballard with his bride of 66 years.

  29. George Bartlett says:

    Tuesday night in Washington DC, I just watched Grumpy land at Edmonton. It was on National News. It was on the NBC station here in DC. Great coverage.

    What a wonderful trip you are having. I hope someone makes a DVD of the whole trip. You guys are terrific. I assukme you are in WA or will be there tomorrow. George Bartlett

  30. Doug Fratoni says:

    I so appreciate the daily logs. You are quite the story teller, I look forward to every post. Keep safe.

  31. Tony Oxlade says:

    Good morning Guys,
    Great to meet all of the team yesterday evening at Edmonton Ciity Airport and also to dine with you and hear first hand about your trip. Grumpy looks in great shape and thank you for letting me have look on board. I will watch the skies this morning for your departure to Abbotsford. This daily log is truly excellent and I enjoy following your adventures.
    John (Sessions) I will watch the foundations website and get a trip down there sometime ( from Sherwood Park Edmonton )

    All the very best wishes as you continue your mission.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Oxlade ( member Albert Aviation Museum Edmonton )

  32. Kelly says:

    Godspeed gents.

    It was our sincere pleasure to host you while you were in Edmonton.

    Thanks again for bringing your wonderful bird for a few days…much appreciated.

    See you in Duxford next July!

    Kelly and the Coast Hotel Team.

  33. I too so appreciate the daily records . . .I’ve always enjoyed your writing . . .but boy, what an experience to live vicariously through what you do John
    Glad to know you are safely back on the continent with Gods speed . . .
    And welcome home Grumpy.

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