TF-51D Galveston Gal Lost


About noon on October 23, 2013, TF-51D N4151D Serial 44-73458 of the Lone Star Flight Museum crashed into a bay near Houston Texas.  It had been on a pleasure flight taking a British tourist for a ride.   Both the pilot and passenger were lost.

This Mustang had been operated by the Canadians as RCAF 9294 until 1959 when it was sold as surplus and went to Defuria and Ritts in Canastota NY as have about 1/3 of the surviving US Mustangs.  It went through a series of owners and ended up in El Salvador in the late 1960s.  It was converted to a TF model with dual controls and a full instrument panel in the backseat.  There was an accident with it in Central America.   It came back to America and went through a series of owners.  Significantly Robert Waltrip, the Lone Star Flight Museum bought it in 1987.  It was sold to Doug Arnold in the UK, but never left America.   The Mustang was based in Arizona and painted in post war colors with “TF-660” on its side.  Mr. Waltrip reacquired N4151D in 2009.

At that point it needed some maintenance and Nelson Ezell from Breckenridge Texas was called in.   There was a full IRAN performed as well as some structural repairs where a longeron was replaced, and new fuel cells installed.  She was painted in the green nosed colors of the 359th Fighter Group of the “Galveston Gal”.   The original Galveston Gal was flown by Ray Lancaster of Galveston during the war.

The Lonestar Flight Museum put the Gal into their flight experience program selling rides for $1995 to help support the airplane for several years.  She was flown by Keith Hibbett, age 51 of Denton Texas, a highly experienced pilot with many years flying warbirds for Lone Star.  He was a pilot in the Navy and for Federal Express.  He lived at a residential airpark north of Dallas, which is a housing subdivision build around a runway.   Keith left behind his wife, three children and two grandchildren.

Aviation photographer and writer Scott Slocum described Keith as “one of the nicest guys I knew, a consummate professional pilot; with his military experience and conservative approach, I was always extremely comfortable with him”.   Similar thoughts were shared by everyone I talked to about Keith.

The passenger was 66 year old John Stephen Busby from Woldingham, Surrey, in the United Kingdom.   Mr. Busby and his wife were in Texas on holiday for their 41st wedding anniversary.

As best I can tell from media reports, nobody saw the actual impact or were there any photographs of it.  The airplane and bodies have been recovered.  There is no official report as to the cause.

From our family here at PhotoRecon, our thoughts and prayers go out the families and friends of passenger Stephen Busby, pilot Keith Hibbett, and the staff at Lone Star Flight Museum for their losses.  God Speed.



Photos courtesy of Chris Heller.

You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark1@GMail.Com.

Mark Hrutkay

Mark has been a member of the International Association of Aviation Photographers (ISAP) for several years and attends all their events and seminars. He has won several awards for his work and has been published in several aviation magazines, domestic and foreign. You can contact Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.

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