This Plexiglas nose compartment houses the bombardier's station in the B-25J. Not all bombers in a squadron carried the famous Norden Bombsight, but 'Briefing Time' is fitted out as the Lead Bombardier's ship and so has one installed. The presence of this large instrument made installation of the flexible machine-gun operated by the bombardiers of other ships impractical, as can be discerned from the photo. But the Norden is prestigious, so every B-25 owner wants one, and many can't resist fitting the useless flex-gun, as well. It looks warlike, but MAAM has opted for authenticity and so only the two, fixed M-2 .50 caliber machine-guns are present in the compartment. These were charged, aimed, and fired by the pilot. We'll see the gun controls in the COCKPIT portion of the tour.
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||NORDEN BOMB SIGHT The top-secret precision instrument takes pride of place in the center of the nose greenhouse. In this model of the B-25, the Norden was not slaved to an autopilot during the bomb run as was the case in some bombers. Instead it sent steering commands to the pilot which he could read on an instrument called the PDI - Pilot's Direction Indicator. The next two shots show the Norden in detail from directly aft and overhead.|
|BOMBARDIER'S INSTRUMENTS AND CONTROLS are mounted on the port side wall. The three-gauge housing contains a Remote Compass Indicator, Altimeter and Airspeed Indicator. Piercing the Plexiglas above these is the Outside Air Temperature Gauge. These instruments were all vital to properly set the Norden Bomb Sight. The close-up shots show the Bomb Interval Control, and the Bombardier's Control Panel..|
|EMERGENCY ESCAPE HATCH The emergency hatch on the port side of the greenhouse is for ground use only. You only need to see that big prop out there to see why! Note the outside air temp probe forward of the hatch, the control cable sheave beside the tunnel, and the heated flight suit control box, just forward of it.|
|BOMBARDIER'S CRAWLWAY - ENTRY You enter the nose compartment by way of this tunnel beneath the left side of the flight deck. Although it's called a "crawlway" the customary and fastest method is to lie on your back and pull yourself along the polished sheet-metal deck using the yellow hand-rails overhead.|
|BOMBARDIER'S CRAWLWAY - EXIT Here's the view looking back into the upper turret gunner's compartment. You can see the armored tunnel door clipped open on the upper left.|
|BROWNING M-2 .50 CALIBER MACHINE GUNS Here's a better look at one of the fixed forward-firing Browning "Ma Deuce" machine-guns. The bare-metal chute beside the gun directs spent shell casings and links into a canvas catch bag. The ammunition feed chute runs to the ammo box beneath the bombardier's seat. A pair of the red-lens, goose-neck lamps that illuminate the compartment on night mission without destroying night vision can be seen behind the gun.|
|BOMBARDIER'S SEAT This is the bombardier's riding seat. The backrest is a bit offset due to the access tunnel opening on the port side. Beneath the seat are the ammo feed boxes for the two .50 caliber M-2 machine guns.|
|ARMOR PLATE Forming the rear wall of the bombardier's compartment is the armor plate that protected the pilots from frontal attack. The top portion of the plate is hinged and supported by the pneumatic strut beside the seat back, allowing access to the rear of the instrument panel. The padded head rest on the unyielding armor plate was much appreciated by the bombardier during hard landings, flak near-misses, and turbulence.|
|FRONT VIEW The windshield wiper at the lower center of this picture used to keep the Norden's view clear. The circular access port to the left is hinged to open inwards. This shot clearly shows why the standard central flexible gun would not work with a Norden installed.|
BEST VIEW IN THE HOUSE The bombardier definitely had the best view, which was not always a good thing. It must have been especially terrifying for the man in front under head-on attack with no guns to fire, as is the case in a Lead Navigator's aircraft, such as ours. This shot was taken during the "Liberation of Reading" flight conducted each year during the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend. Want more evidence that this is the view to die for?......
Click on the picture above to watch a video filmed in September, 2002 aboard 'Briefing Time'. The entire flight was filmed from the bombardier's point of view. It's in Windows Media Video Format (wmv) of 16.16MB and runs 7:50 minutes.
The gentleman in the red cap who you'll see helping to turn the props before start-up was a crewmember of a USMC PBJ-1, (the Naval designation of the Mitchell) during WW II.
After engine start we'll taxi past MAAM's French village, takeoff from RDG runway 31 and turn south as we pass over US 222. Our mission is to "fly top cover" for the restored Liberty Ship, U.S.S. Brown, sailing out of Baltimore.
Visiting crew member, Flight Leader Alan Landsburgh, RAF, crawls from the upper turret compartment through the tunnel and you'll see his reaction to the great view. But you'll have to read his lips over the roar of the wind and Wright Cyclones.
We are early on station, so Captain Strine takes us south and we do a window-rattling buzz job on the Kent Island, Maryland home of a friend at a fly-in community. You'll hear the turbulence as he opens the bomb bay doors over the unsuspecting victim's house.
Then it's time to head back north over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to locate the Brown. We can see in the distance that the ship is under attack by Japanese aircraft! It's the "Tora Tora" flight. Once they are driven off, it's our turn to make multiple, low-level passes over the ship. Russ really hauls the bomber around making a cloverleaf pattern over the Brown. Listen carefully for that "burble" in the air stream as the bomb bay doors open again on the final run.
On the way home we pass over Martin State Airport in Middle River , Maryland and get a somewhat shaky look at the outdoor collection at the Glenn L Martin Museum.
Finally, we roll out on final approach to land back on runway 31, then taxi back to the museum ramp and shutdown. Mission accomplished.
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