Billy Kelly

BILLY KELLY / CREW CHIEF


Billy’s career in the aircraft field commenced in his early teens, when he spent many hours of his spare time as a volunteer with Duxford’s first collector, and restorer of the first Blenheim, Ormonde Hayden-Baillie. Upon Ormonde’s death in July 1977, Billy remained connected with the Blenheim when its restoration was taken over by Graham Warner, and later John Romain, right up until the present day.

 

Apart from a short period away from Duxford as a refrigeration engineer, Billy’s knowledge and expertise in aircraft maintenance has been gained over three decades, working for various companies based on the airfield. Early years at Duxford saw him refurbishing at least fifteen static aircraft to museum display standard, including a Spitfire Mk 1, N.A. F86 Sabre, Hawker Hunter and Spad to mention a few.

 

Gaining experience all the time, Billy moved on to line and general maintenance on all aspects of the aircraft to include airframe and engines. The list of aircraft he has worked on is both extensive and impressive, totaling just under 100 types, and includes a Catalina, bell P63 Cobra, DC 3 Dakota, P51 Mustang and P47 Thunderbolt.

 

Billy recently added to his long list of aircraft types when he carried out an airframe and engine airworthiness survey on a new build Flugwerk FW190 A8.

 

He has a special fondness for the B-25 Mitchell and is delighted to be accompanying pilots John Romain, Lee Proudfoot and John Sessions when N88972 makes its ferry flight across the Atlantic.

  1. Merrill Wien says:

    I am so delighted that the B-25D, that I used to own, is coming back to the good ol’e USA. It sure does bring back many memories.

    I love the B-25. It is a remarkable airplane. I first flew the B-25 in the Air Force advanced pilot training class of 53-F at Reese AFB in Lubbock, TX in 1953. I soon realized that if you could taxi the airplane, the rest was easy.

    After I got out of the Air Force in 1956, and went back flying for Wien Alaska Airlines, I found out that BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in Alaska was using the B-25 for fighting forrest fires. My brother and I decided to get in to the air tanker business on the side while we were flying for Wien Airlines. We bid on a B-25 being surplused at Davis Monthan, AR, and we were the successful bidders. $2750. Years later, when, after operating two B-25s, with two other partners, Stan Halverson and Doug Millard, Wien employees, we sold our business to another operator which was sold a couple more times. After BLM outlawed the B-25s, because of some accidents, these airplanes sat at Fairbanks for many years in an area for derelict old airplanes.

    As interest in the old airplane increased, I bought one of the original B-25s that my brother and I used to operate, for $5,000, from Don Gilbertson and eventually donated it to the Planes of Fame in Chino, CA. It was a great flying airplane and I should have kept it, but who would have thought.

    A few yeas later I bought N88972 for $16,000. It was in no way as good condition as the first re-purchase that I bought from Don Gilbertson but I knew that it was a rare model of the B-25.

    The Airplane was driven hard while still in service fire fighting out of Fairbanks and was on its last legs when retired. 12 years later, and after about 5 or 6 cylinder changes, we thought we could get it to Chino California. My friend Jeff Thomas helped me ferry it in the early 80s to Seattle. It spent the winter there and when we test hopped it in the following spring for the ferry flight to Chino, the right engine quit on landing and we had to get a new carburetor from Aero Traders to finish the flight to Chino for the rebuild. The diaphragms ruptured from sitting so long and drying up without fuel. This happened to me in the P-38 that my brother and I bought about the same time after it sat for several yeas in the heat in Oklahoma. The right engine quit on me on my first flight. That is another story.

    When we arrived at Chino, Carl Schoel and Tony Ritzman, of Areo Traders, said the the engines soulded terrible when we flew over the field. They sounded good from inside but, O well. we got there.

    When I was driving down to Los Angeles from Seattle in 1987 to take a job with a company called Total Air, operating Loockeed 1011s, I stopped buy Carmell to visit my Dad’s old friend, Jimmy Doolittle. We had lunch and I asked him if he would fly with me in my B-25D when Aero Traders at Chino CA finished restoring it. I planned on painting it the same as his Doolittle Raider. I knew that it was very similar to the B-25B that he flew on the Doolittle raid. There was little difference between the B an the C and no difference between the C and the D except where they were built. He said that he had never flown and airplane since he turned 60 years old and was not going to press his luck. I hope you read his book,” I COULD NEVER BE SO LUCKY AGAIN”, He was 90 years old then and very sharp.

    I never quite got to finish the restoration because I ran out of money so I had to sell it to Stephen Grey and Bob Pond for about what I had in it. I should have just let it sit in the dry climate in Fairbanks until it was worth more.

    I think that this airplane originally went to England, maybe as it is painted now but eventually came back to Canada where it was eventually surplused.

    As a side note, my friend and I asked General Doolittle, what was the best airplane he ever flew and what was the worst. He did not hesitate to say that the best was the Spitfire and worst was the the BG racer. It wanted to tumble at the pylons. In my estimation, Jimmy Doolittle is the all time greatest pilot. ever. He was the first graduated in Aeronautical engineering at MIT an WOW, could he fly.

    These are my thoughts when I think of N88972,

    Noel Merrill Wien “Merrill”

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