B-25 VIP Transport Conversions

Last revised March 11, 2000

The first B-25 (serial number 40-2165) had been retained by North American for general test work. In November of 1942, its test program completed, the aircraft was modified as a company transport. All military equipment was removed, and five passenger seats were installed in the rear fuselage, as well as a desk and an intercom system. The nose was faired over, and a set of windows was installed in the rear fuselage, and a set of flares replaced the tail gunner's position.. Two more seats were installed ahead of the bomb bay directly behind the flight deck. The bomb bay was converted for baggage and a bunk was installed on the crawlway above.

40-2165 flew in its full USAAF insignia and the tail numbers remained painted on the aircraft. It made many flights all over the country with James "Dutch" Kindelberger and other company personnel. However, on January 8, 1945, it was damaged beyond repair in a crash landing in an open field after a hydraulic system failure and had to be scrapped.

B-25J serial number 43-4030 had the honor of being converted as a personal transport for General Dwight Eisenhower. The top of the bomb bay was lowered considerably, requiring that additional structure be added to the wing center section carry-through structure. The remaining bomb bay space was fitted with a bullet-proof fuel tank for additional range. Two seats were installed immediately aft of the bomb bay, and behind these seats a fold-down table was fitted which extended the full width of the airplane. A walnut cabinet was installed. The aft entrance hatch was revised for easier access to the cabin. The interior walls were insulated from sound and were paneled like those of a commercial airliner. The tail gun position was removed, providing space for a jettisonable liferaft.

The General is reported to have used this plane on only a few occasions. After the war, it ended up flying cargo out of Bolling Field near Washington DC as a CB-25J, which was the designation given to B-25Js that had been converted to transports. In 1948, it was redesignated VB-25J and was used by the 1100th Special Air Mission Group to fly VIPs back and forth within the USA. In early 1953, it operated with the 1254th Air Transport Group at Washington National Airport, and in August of 1958 it was asssigned to the 1001st Air Base Wing at Andrews AFB. In December of 1958, 43-4030 was finally consigned to the boneyards at Davis-Monthan AFB, and was formally stricken from the rolls in February of 1959. Later, it was sold on the commercial market, passing through a succession of civilian owners. In 1981, the USAF, recognizing its historical significance, repurchased the plane and turned it over to the museum at Ellsworth AFB near Rapid City, South Dakota. It is now on display there, having been restored to its original configuration as created for General Eisenhower.

In 1944, General Henry H. "Hap" Arnold traded in his converted B-25 private transport (serial no 40-2168) for a newly-revised B-25J. B-25J 44-28945 was selected for the conversion, duplicating almost bolt-for-bolt the modifications that had been incorporated in General Eisenhower's B-25J. However, the S-type Clayton exhausts were replaced by less-noisy B-25C-type full collector rings that led to a single exhaust pipe exiting the aircraft of the side of the nacelle away from the aircraft. The nose was fully faired over and a series of antennae were mounted underneath the forward fuselage. A direction finder loop was installed on top of the nose.

General Arnold used this plane until January of 1946 when it was released back to general service and was redesignated VB-25J for personnel transportation. It was sold as surplus in 1953. It passed through a succession of owners, its ultimate fate being unknown. Presumably, it ended up derelict somewhere and was junked.

The loss of 40-2165 had left North American Aviation without a company transport, and B-25J 44-30047 was converted as its replacement. 44-30047 was quite similar to the planes that had been modified for Generals Arnold and Eisenhower, but incorporated some differences. The standard eight-gun nose shell was used, with a large door being cut into each side to provide easy access to the heater and radio equipment inside. The radio direction finder was mounted on the underside. The converted aircraft flew for the first time on October 18, 1945. However, it crashed off Malibu on February 27, 1946 following an onboard fire, killing veteran test pilot Joe Barton, test engineer Cowles, and CAA inspector McCutcheon.


  1. B-25 Mitchell: The Magnificent Medium, N. L. Avery, Phalanx, 1992.

  2. Medium with the Mostest--The B-25 Mitchell, Jerry Scutts, Air International, Vol. 44, Nos 2 and 3, 1993.

  3. Boston, Mitchell, and Liberator in Australian Service, Stewart Wilson, Aerospace Publications, 1992.

  4. Famous Bombers of the Second World War, William Green, Doubleday, 1959.

  5. North American's Flying Gun--The Story of the B-25 From Paper Airplane to Legendary Bomber, Jack Dean, Wings, Vol 23 No 4, 1993.

  6. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  7. United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  8. North American B-25A-G Mitchell, Aircraft in Profile, Doubleday, 1966.

  9. Jane's American Fighting Aircraft of the 20th Century, Michael J. H. Taylor.