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Old Warbird; P-51

Old 07-26-2006, 06:12 PM
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Default Old Warbird; P-51

Subject: P-51 Story


Here's a simple, yet great story!

Old aviators and old airplanes never die… they just fly off into eternity.

This is a good little story about a vivid memory of a P-51 and its pilot by a fellow when he was 12 years old in Canada in 1967. Some of
you may know a few others who would appreciate it.

It was noon on a Sunday as I recall, the day a Mustang P-51 was to
take to the air. They said it had flown in during the night from some
US airport, the pilot had been tired.

I marveled at the size of the plane dwarfing the Pipers and Canucks
tied down by her. It was much larger than in the movies. She
glistened in the sun like a bulwark of security from days gone by.

The pilot arrived by cab, paid the driver, then stepped into the
flight lounge. He was an older man, his wavy hair was gray and
tossed… looked like it might have been combed, … say, around the turn of the century. His flight jacket was checked, creased and worn – it smelled old and genuine. Old Glory was prominently sewn to its
shoulders. He projected a quiet air of proficiency and pride devoid
of arrogance. He filed a quick flight plan to Montreal (Expo-67, Air
Show) then walked across the tarmac.

After taking several minutes to perform his walk-around check the
pilot returned to the flight lounge to ask if anyone would be
available to stand by with fire extinguishers while he "flashed the
old bird up… just to be safe." Though only 12 at the time I was
allowed to stand by with an extinguisher after brief instruction on
its use -- "If you see a fire, point, then pull this lever!" I
later became a firefighter, but that's another story.

The air around the exhaust manifolds shimmered like a mirror from
fuel fumes as the huge prop started to rotate. One manifold, then
another, and yet another barked -- I stepped back with the others. In
moments the Packard-built Merlin engine came to life with a
thunderous roar, blue flames knifed from her manifolds. I looked at
the others' faces, there was no concern. I lowered the bell of my
extinguisher. One of the guys signaled to walk back to the lounge. We did.

Several minutes later we could hear the pilot doing his pre flight
run-up. He'd taxied to the end of runway 19, out of sight. All went
quiet for several seconds, we raced from the lounge to the second
story deck to see if we could catch a glimpse of the P-51 as she
started down the runway. We could not. There we stood, eyes fixed to a spot half way down 19. Then a roar ripped across the field, much
louder than before, like a furious hell spawn set loose---something
mighty this way was coming.

"Listen to that thing!" Said the controller. In seconds the Mustang
burst into our line of sight. Its tail was already off and it was moving faster than anything I'd ever seen by that point on 19. Two-thirds the way down 19 the Mustang was airborne with her gear going up. The prop tips were supersonic; we clasped our ears as the Mustang climbed hellish fast into the circuit to be eaten up by the
dog-day haze.

We stood for a few moments in stunned silence trying to digest what
we'd just seen. The radio controller rushed by me to the radio.
"Kingston tower calling Mustang?" He looked back to us as he waited for an acknowledgment. The radio crackled, "Go ahead Kingston." "Roger Mustang. Kingston tower would like to advise the circuit is clear for a low level pass." I stood in shock because the controller had, more or less, just asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air show!

The controller looked at us. "What?" He asked. "I can't let that guy
go without asking… I couldn't forgive myself!" The radio crackled
once again, "Kingston, do I have permission for a low level pass,
east to west, across the field?" "Roger Mustang, the circuit is clear
for an east to west pass." "Roger, Kingston, I'm coming out of 3000
feet, stand by." We rushed back onto the second-story deck, eyes
fixed toward the eastern haze.

The sound was subtle at first, a high-pitched whine, a muffled
screech, a distant scream. Moments later the P-51 burst through the
haze… her airframe straining against positive Gs and gravity, wing
tips spilling contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic
as the burnished bird blasted across the eastern margin of the field
shredding and tearing the air.

At about 400 mph and 150 yards from where we stood she passed with an old American pilot saluting… imagine… a salute. I felt like laughing, I felt like crying, she glistened, she screamed, the building shook, my heart pounded… then the old pilot pulled her up… and rolled, and rolled, and rolled out of sight into the broken clouds and indelibly into my memory.

I've never wanted to be an American more than on that day. It was a
time when many nations in the world looked to America as their big
brother, a steady and even-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water with grace and style; not unlike the pilot who'd just flown into my memory. He was proud, not arrogant, humble, not a braggart, old and honest, projecting an aura of America at its best. That America will return one day, I know it will.

Until that time, I'll just send off a story; call it a reciprocal
salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young
Canadian that's stayed a lifetime.=


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Old 07-26-2006, 06:30 PM
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Default Re: Old Warbird; P-51

Heck of a story.

It's kinda weird that the same day you posted this in the Bilge, a privately owned F-86 Sabre jet went down about 20 miles from here killing the pilot.
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Old 07-26-2006, 07:40 PM
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Default RE: Old Warbird; P-51

Thanks for posting that touching story As a private pilot and long-time admirer of the P-51, it brought back memories of when I was flying in a club in California. There was a P-51 that flew in from time to time, and yes, it is as awe-inspiring as the story depicts. If I'm not mistaken, (anything's possible ), the P-51's 4-blade prop spans 14 feet from tip to tip . To witness a fly-by like that will make the hair on your neck stand straight up! Thanks again.
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Old 07-26-2006, 08:40 PM
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Default Re: Old Warbird; P-51

Living near the airport here, I see alot of planes (Too many noisy stage 2 jets, but thats another story). Local guy, Mickey Rupp, usedta have a P-51 he raced at Reno. Magnificent plane!! We still have an annual air show, and several real Mustangs show up. They usually culminate with a joint exhibit of a P-51, an f-16 or something, and last year, a warthog. Sure, after 60 years they're outdated, but what a piece of propeller driven machinery...I can always tell one just by the sound.
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Old 07-26-2006, 10:23 PM
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Default Re: Old Warbird; P-51

Great story. Thanks for posting that.

Man I wish I was at Oshkosh right now...
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Old 07-27-2006, 02:40 PM
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Default RE: Old Warbird; P-51

Put an F-15, F-16 or even the new F-22 beside a Mustang and I had to choose which one to fly for fun, hands down the Mustang.
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Old 07-27-2006, 07:23 PM
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Default Re: Old Warbird; P-51

That was a wonderful story. The Mustang is one of my all time favorite fighter planes, along with the P-38 Lightning, and the F4U Corsair. There's precious few of these warbirds still flying, but it does my heart good to see one once in a while.

there's a P-51 that flies out of our local (Timmonsville) airport that I see occasionally. She's a proud bird to be sure. She's painted up in D-Day colors, olive drab skin with D-Day stripes. Impressive, even on the ground.
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