10:15 PM


Recently, I ran a couple of posts trying to sort out the mess swirling around the B-25 "Heavenly Body" at Van Nuys Airport. But despite receiving a ream or so of documentation from all involved, I am no closer to finding common ground then the people and organizations involved in this long-standing fued. If you don't have time to read a million words of back story, just think Hatfields versus McCoys, with wings.

One of the people on the crew of the B-25 based at VNY has sent me enough data to keep my team of fact checkers (yeah, right) busy until next summer. But since there is only one of me, I decided to just present a few highlights from a letter received here from the folks at b25.net, the home site for the bomber. After reading this letter I posted sent to me by the Van Nuys Airport Public & Community Relations Department, the B-25 crew was more then fired up to respond. Here are a few pull quotes from their letter:

Thank you for contacting the crew of Heavenly Body, the WWII B-25j Mitchell Bomber, stationed at Van Nuys Airport. We appreciate the opportunity to respond to your recent blog regarding the unfortunate situation between VNY and our aircraft. We have been aware of the impending changes [at VNY] and have been trying to work out these issues with VNY for five years. We'd like to broach their simplified view of our options in terms of preserving a suitable home for our historic and iconic B-25j Mitchell Bomber, Heavenly Body.

Regarding their option for us to relocate our aircraft to another hangar facility at VNY: The reason is that alternative hangar facilities are priced upwards of $5000 per month. Our current rent is $900 per month. This rent increase is not feasible, as our B-25 does not make a profit. In regards to their second option of relocating our aircraft to a hangar facility at an alternative airport: The reality is that other local airports cannot properly accommodate Heavenly Body, due to shorter runways and unavailability of space. Also, the nearest airport that could house her properly is over 60 miles away, and therefore is a major problem for our crew of 20 volunteers, who maintain the aircraft on a regular basis. And concerning their third option of relocating Heavenly Body to an open air tie-down area at VNY or another local airport: Again, there are no other local airports that can handle this aircraft, and an open air tie-down is a slow death for a plane. The sun is devastating for any aircraft, especially a classic bomber with turrets.

Now let’s clarify the entire issue: At this point in time, the leaseholder of the bomber's current home has given us notice to vacate the hangar. He has arranged to lease seven acres behind Synchro Aviation for his current propeller plane tenants. This group did not include the B-25 but we are now trying to arrange a temporary tie-down there. We have not yet received an answer as to how much this tie-down would cost in rent and how long we would be stuck there.
If you think that $900 in rent buys the B-25 gang a palace, think again. Here's what reality looks like in the world of "Heavenly Body", again, quoting their crew:
The reason that our current rent is considered low is because our hangar is open and there is no security. There is very little light or power and no plumbing - it is bare bones and is solely a roof over our heads. And that roof leaks, so when it rains, our hangar is affectionately referred to as “Lake Van Nuys.” The 10,000 square foot hangar is actually divided among various tenants, and our $900 per month pays for a portion of the hangar, not the entire space.
And for fans of the Mitchell who want to see it stay at VNY, don't blame the bomber's crew if it ends up moving off the field. Again, from their letter to this blog:
We have been extremely proactive in trying to find a suitable hangar for Heavenly Body, tirelessly corresponding with the Airport Operations Superintendent, the Property Manager, and leaseholders. A letter from VNY Airport dated August 9, 2007 offers an alternative hangar at VNY for $4,493 per month through a leaseholder on the airport. LAWA has since suggested a few other leaseholders at VNY said they were interested in helping us but when we contacted them, we found that their minimum rates were in excess of $5000 per month.
And lastly, what about the old ANG base at VNY for a possible new home for the B-25? The bomber crew's letter aims to clear that up too:
We have continuously presented the idea of occupying the General Services Hangar, which is one three hangars left on the Air National Guard site, and we are open to paying a reasonable monthly rent for it, but LAWA insists that due to hazardous materials therein, these hangars must be destroyed. We have two environmental reports produced by an independent firm, which were assessments of the “contamination” in these hangars, one produced in 2002 and another in 2005. These reports give the option of abatement/clean-up; they do not however say that the hangars must be demolished. We have discussed these findings with LAWA but they are not interested.
Like I said at the outset...quag-freaking-mire. One thing that anyone reading this blog can do to help the B-25 crew navigate their endless bureaucratic maze is to go here and sign the online petition. I have already done so...have you? If you value the worth of these old warbirds - especially the really big honking ones like Heavenly Body, you have no room to bitch if you do not sign their petition and the bomber gets the boot from VNY.

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