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North American B-25 Mitchell

Camera Ships














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The B-25 Mitchell was the ideal platform from which to undertake aerial photography.
Not only was it a good steady flight platform, but with the end of the war and the large surplus numbers of B-25's now entering the civilian market, they were cheap to purchase.
Distinctive in the B-25's modification was the construction of a new camera nose. Camera noses for had evolved over the years, beginning with a standard GI nose and eventually gaining the distinctive wrap-around nose glass.
With Mantz'z N1042B, the nose was constructed from scratch and was slightly longer, and incorporated a large hatch on the left side to assist in mounting cameras. The wrap-around nose glass was specially formed as a cylindrical section with minimal optical distortion for filming. The camera nose was fabricated and installed by Potter Aircraft Services at Burbank. Also, the waist and tail gun positions were modified to accept camera mounts. The airplane was finished in an overall white scheme with red rudders and wingtips, and a black anti-glare panel forward of the cockpit.

 
 

 

 

The B-25 Mitchell has enjoyed limited use as a camera ship.

For motion picture camera ship missions, the waist, nose and tail gunner positions served as mounting positions for film cameras.

Four different POVs could be achieved simultaneously which  later served as background plates for process or compositing purposes. Such work was accomplished for the motion picture "Drop Zone" to aquire background plates at different altitudes to be used in the film's opening scenes.

More recently a B-25 has been mounted with a Spacecam gyro-stabilized ball mount in the tail gunner's position for "Con Air" to do air-to-air shooting of that film's C-123 Provider story ship. This is a good example of the need for a camera ship that fills the performance gap between the Learjet and the commonly used helicopter camera ships. For some time, the B-25 was the fixed-wing camera platform of choice, but that role has been largely taken over by the Lear.

Camera mounting capability in a B-25 that frequently performs camera ship duty is usually accommodated with fixed Mitchell-top plates that will accept the current popular fluid and geared heads. Tyler Camera Systems provides a mount designed specifically for fixed-wing work. Known as the Tyler Three-Axis mount, it is mainly intended for air-to-air filming (targeting) and not as a traditional pan-and-tilt mechanism although it does offer that movement capability. Any specialized mount installation, such as the Spacecam ball mount mentioned above, should be discussed with the aerial coordinator, mount vendor and pilot/owner of the aircraft to make certain all FAA restrictions are addressed. B-25s not normally functioning in the camera ship role will need to be rigged for mounting.

In brief

Film “Battle of Britain”

Camera-ship 44-31508 N6578D operated at Duxford etc by Euroamericair Returned to the US and standard nose refitted. Became “Chapter XI” then “Lucky Lady”. This is believed to be the airframe now for sale.

Film “633 Squadron”

Camera-ship 44-30861 N9089Z “Moviemaker II” operated by Aero Associates at Bovingdon etc. Stored for many years at Biggin Hill, grounded so by road to Southend (painted in RAF camo) , to Duxford (dismantled), then North Weald where became “Bedsheet Bomber” , Wycombe AP . Despite what is implied in one post above, this machine was never at Coventry .

Film “Memphis Belle”

Camera-ship 44-30823 N1042B “Dolly” operated by Aces High from Duxford etc. for filming, then based at North Weald. Standard nose refitted, returned to US. (Had originally been fitted with panoramic nose by Tallmantz and was used in Catch 22).

Film “Hanover Street”

5 B-25s were ferried to the UK for this film. Their transfer to the UK was covered in the documentary film “Mitchells Do Fly In IMC”. On arrival the aircraft were painted with pseudo WWII schemes and given nose art.

The main camera ship for Hanover Street was an American registered Aztec which could be seen parked beside the B-25s at Bovingdon between filming. I was lucky enough to board some of the Mitchells at Bovingdon at that time.

The B-25s used were:

44-29121 N86427 “Brenda’s Boys” After the film it was renamed “Miami Clipper” and made a flying appearance at a Mildenhall airshow. It was damaged during later fiming in Spain and grounded then went as a static exhibit to the Museuo del Aire at Cuatro Vientos, Spain.

44-30925 N9494Z “Gorgeous George-Ann” This is the airframe which later spent a long time in storage at Coventry before going in dismantled state for further storage at Sandtoft before being rescued by a group from Belgium I believe. They are restoring it over there.

44-29366 N9115Z “Marvelous Miriam” Along with the other Hanover Street B-25s this was stored for a while at Blackbushe after use in the film but is now on exhibit in the RAF Museum at Hendon.

44-86701 N7681C “Amazing Andrea” This B-25 had been heading for a secure future in preservation, but disaster struck when in store with the Musee de l’air Le Bourget when it was lost in a huge hangar fire.

44-30210 N9455Z “Big Bad Bonnie” The sole B-25 used in the film to fly back to the US.


Other film related B-25s that have come to the UK

44-31171 N7614C Operated by Flying W Productions was used in the filming of commercials. It was operated out of various locations and I recall photographing it at Luton and later at Shoreham where it ended its flying days. It was stored before acquisition by the IWM for static restoration and is now exhibited at Duxford.

43-4643 N1203 Operated by Tallmantz this B-25 had a panoramic nose and had also featured in Catch 22. When in an overall white scheme it visited the UK on a few occasions when used for filming documentaries etc and during one of these visits it even did a run over Old Warden during a gathering in the 1960s.

The above was supplied by "Tim at http://forum.keypublishing.com/showthread.php?t=118447

 

Companies that flew the B-25 as a camera platform

Tallmantz Aviation

John Hawke / Euramericair Inc / Airspeed Int. Inc

Aces High Limited

James E. Maloney/Planes Of Fame