Of all the iconic aircraft in the world, the P51 Mustang is probably the top of the heap. Isolationist America had almost no military to speak of when World War II began. We had less than 180,000 soldiers in the US Army! Suddenly there was a need for massive production of war materiel. America did amazing things. Ford stopped making cars and produced bombers. Unemployment disappeared as jobs were plentiful. What is amazing is that the P51 went from prototype to first aircraft off the line in a mere 102 days! This aircraft far exceeded the performance of any other propeller driven fighter and bridged the performance gap between prop driven fighters and the jet age. It was a technological marvel and a great example of America Can Do.
A large air grabbing prop and the powerful 12 cylinder Merlin engine, combined with a low drag fuselage made this the dominant fighter in any dogfight. Part of the Allied success over Germany was the simple fact that now we had a fighter that could fly the distance and provide escort for the bombers targeting Germany. B17 crews loved their “little friends” who helped keep them safe from the German fighters.
This P51D hangs in the lobby of Base Ops FBO at the Page Field airport in Sarasota, Florida. It really helps you understand the powerful propeller that slung this plane around the skies. The P51 was not as manuevarable as the Spitfire but it had tons of power and most importantly range. It had a redline speed of 505 mph and could easily do 400 mph. Six .50 caliber Browning machine guns provided the punch that made the airplane so deadly.
Crazy Horse is still flying in Kissimmee Florida and for the right amount of “hay” you can feed this horse and take a ride. Be prepared to “pony up” though because these birds aren’t cheap. But talk about a thrill! I have not had the opportunity to fly in this plane but it is on my bucket list. If you have never been to an airshow where WWII era planes have been featured you owe it to yourself to go. The sound and the sight of such iconic aircraft is unique and unforgettable.
The most famous P51 pilots were Chuck Yeager and Bob Hoover. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Hoover at an aviation convention. Both of them had exciting lives and their biographies are great reading.