The ranks of the homeless may soon include a World War II-era bomber that has appeared at several West Coast air shows and starred with Bette Midler in the wartime movie “For the Boys.”
The owner of the “Heavenly Body,” one of only two WWII-era airplanes at Burbank Airport, has lost the free hangar and tie-down space that he has had for the past five years and fears that he won’t be able to find another space that he can afford.
“I can’t afford to go out and pay $1,000 or $1,500 a month for a tie-down space, which is what is required for a plane of that size,” said Los Angeles businessman Mike Pupich, who has owned the B-25 plane for the past 18 years.
He said he cannot rule out selling the plane.
The plane, while never used in combat, is the same model that took off from an aircraft carrier in WWII to carry out Gen. James Doolittle’s famous 1942 bombing raid on Japan, and was a workhorse of bombing forces in all theaters of the war. It has a wingspan of 67 feet and weighs about 10 tons.
But aviation buffs say losing the “Heavenly Body” would hurt their efforts to preserve the airport’s ties to its historic past.
“We want to bring more historic planes to Burbank,” said R. C. (Chappy) Czapiewski, founder of the Burbank Historical Museum, which is working to establish an aviation museum at the airport.
Pupich said he purchased the plane in 1971 because “it’s like owning a Model ‘T’ Ford.” For years, he said, he parked the plane at Van Nuys Airport, where he had a tie-down space with a low-price monthly fee because he had held it for 15 years. The space is no longer available.
In 1988, he said, the management of Media Aviation at Burbank Airport offered him free space for his plane.
But on Aug. 30, Media Aviation told Pupich that he had five days to move the plane, Pupich said. Because the plane was in disrepair, he said, he moved it to space provided by Mercury Aviation, a refueling firm. Mercury offered to provide free shelter for 10 days so Pupich could repair the plane and move it to another location. He said he now has until Sunday to find the plane a new home.
Tommy Colletti, president of operations for Media Aviation, said Pupich was asked to leave as early as January because the property he occupied was to be used to build new hangars. He said Pupich knew that the plane’s stay at Media was only temporary.