To settle Alaska case of pilfered plane parts, Georgia plane salvagers pay up

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A Georgia airplane restoration company has reached a settlement with federal prosecutors in Alaska over old and abandoned aircraft parts its salvagers took without permission from a crash site on federal land near Fairbanks.

The restorers — Douglas, Georgia-based B-25 Group LLC — paid the U.S. Bureau of Land Management $55,000 to settle a five-year investigation into their unauthorized use of public land, according to a written statement Thursday from the Alaska U.S. Attorney's Office. The parts they took were left on the Tanana Flats south of Fairbanks from the crash of an F-82 Twin Mustang nearly six decades earlier, the federal prosecutors said.

"B-25 Group initially asserted the parts had been lawfully acquired from a salvage yard in Fairbanks," the statement says.

According to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the F-82 fighter resembled two P-51 Mustang fuselages joined together on one wing and was designed to escort bombers on long-range missions.

Three F-82s at Fairbanks' Ladd Air Force Base — now Fort Wainwright, an Army post — took off for a practice flight in January 1950, and one crashed and killed the two men onboard, according to the federal prosecutors' statement. In July 2008, the B-25 Group salvagers located and removed some parts for use in another restored plane, the prosecutors said.

Of the settlement money, $50,000 will go to further BLM recovery efforts of the crashed F-82 and $5,000 is considered a civil penalty to be used on other protection of historic aviation sites, the prosecutors said.

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