AIRVENTURE 2019 YEAR OF THE FIGHTER PART 1: A SALUTE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN P-51 MUSTANG.
Our coverage of EAA AirVenture 2019 starts with a look at an aircraft that hardly needs an introduction and solidified its place in aviation history over 75 years ago. The aircraft that would eventually become known as the Mustang was born in 1940 and was originally designated the NA-73X. It took only 102 days for the first prototype air frame, manufactured by North American Aviation, to be rolled out after The Royal Air Force signed a contract. A short 48 days later the Mustang would take flight on October 26, 1940. The P-51 Mustang was originally developed for the Royal Air Force and designated the Mustang Mk1 which was used as a tactical reconnaissance and fighter/bomber platform as World War II raged on in Europe. The United States would enter World War II and immediately saw the need for an advanced fighter aircraft. The United States Army Air Corps evaluated the Mustang, and after switching from an Allison engine to a Rolls Royce Merlin engine, which gave the Mustang much better performance the P-51 B and C models entered the war effort. The United States Army Air Corps would use Mustangs as escorts for bombers and also in the fighter bomber role.
The definitive version of the Mustang known as the P-51D model which has a top speed of 440 mph and a range of 1,650 miles with external fuel tanks, entered World War II in 1944. The “D” model would become one of the premier fighter aircraft in its day. Over 15,000 Mustangs would be built, it would see combat in the European, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Italian Theaters during World War II and has approximately 4,950 destroyed enemy aircraft to its credit with only the Grumman F-6F Hellcat claiming to have destroyed more enemy aircraft than the Mustang. When World War II ended the newly formed United States Air Force, Strategic Air Command employed the Mustang alongside the Twin Mustang which were re-designated as the F-51 and F-82, F for fighter as opposed to P for pursuit. Mustangs would serve a number of roles including use as a fighter, trainer, and reconnaissance platform.
First taking flight in June 1945, the Twin Mustang was designed as a very long-range escort fighter to escort bombers during World War II in the Pacific Theater. The Twin Mustang saw the combination of two newly designed P-51H model Mustang fuselages that would share a common wing. The twin Mustang was the last piston powered fighter to be ordered but never saw combat service in World War II as the war ended before it became operational. A pair of Allison V1710-143/145 counter rotating liquid cooled V12 engines powered the Twin Mustang to a top speed of 461 miles per hour and a range of 2,240 miles. In total 272 twin Mustangs would be built before production ceased.
In 1950 war would break out on the Korean Peninsula and the Mustang would once again be called to serve in a combat role. The Mustang went to war and served as a reconnaissance, ground attack, and also in the fighter and night attack rolls. The F-82 would actually be credited with the first three North Korean aircraft shot down. Mustangs would serve many years until replaced by the jet powered North American F-86 Sabre and the Grumman F-9F Panther. The Mustang would continue to fly with United States Air Force Reserve and United States Air Force Air National Guard through the 1950s until finally being retired in January 1957. The Twin Mustang would continue to serve with the Air Defense Command as an all-weather interceptor until 1951 when the Lockheed F-94 Starfire took over this role. The Mustang however would go on to serve with many different air forces of the world including, Australia, Canada, and Sweden. The Mustang would actually serve with the Dominican Air Force until 1984.
Many P-51 Mustangs were sold as surplus after World War II and the Korean War and ended up in civilian hands for a fraction of its value today. That brings us to AirVenture 2019 and the main theme of this year’s show” Year of the Fighter”, which included a salute to the North American P-51 Mustang as well as World War II Triple Ace Colonel Clarence “Bud” Anderson. Colonel Anderson served with the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group and flew a North American P-51D-10-NA Mustang named “Old Crow”. Colonel Anderson went on to serve in the United States Air Force until finally retiring in 1972. The Thursday airshow honored Colonel Anderson and also highlighted the P-51 Mustang, it featured no less than 18 different Mustangs.
AirVenture invited every flyable P-51 in the United States to attend this year’s show and several different Mustangs were present. Notable attendees included P-51B-1NA Mustang, registered N551E, named Old Crow and owned by Jack Roush. Minot North Dakota based P-51C-1ONT, better known as Lopes Hope 3rd was a welcome visitor. Scott “Scooter” Yoak had his beautifully restored P-51D-30NT, registered N51HY, and named Quicksilver on hand. AirVenture 2019 also welcomed the ultra-rare P-51H-5NA Mustang, one of only two left flyable in the world. This Mustang is registered N551H and is owned by Steven Coutches and is based at Livermore California.
One of the biggest highlights of AirVenture 2019 was, N887XP, military serial number 44-83887 the only flyable XP-82 Twin Mustang in the world. This Twin Mustang is the second XP-82 built, and is one of only five left in existence, and was restored to flying status after 11 years of restoration work. Tom Riley is the proud owner of this beautiful aircraft and is flown by Ray Fowler. The XP-82 won the Phoenix Award at this year’s show.
The P-51 Mustang served this country proudly and now thrills air show audiences around the world and will continue to do so for many years to come. In our next article we continue our look at AirVenture 2019 with a look at some of the modern military fighters that were present at this year’s show.
Until next time” Blue Skies to All!”