P-51 Mustang Flight for 75th birthday

A cautionary note to Windows XP users, maybe others. When I first tried looking at the videos on my XP machine, it went bonkers. I eventually found my way to this website: Microsoft Support, and then a Fixit page popped up, saying "this troubleshooter" may fix your problem. I think it has.

A couple of years ago, after years of "what would you like for your birthday, Dad?", I said "start saving your money, for my 75th birthday I want a ride in P-51 Mustang". They said (more or less), OK. So, a week after 75 (3/4 of a century; surely I jest!), we were on the way back to Oregon from Arizona, and we stopped by the Planes of Fame Museum at the Chino Airport. POFM just happen to have two flying P-51D Mustangs (among many other flying warbirds) in which members can support flights. Ride, or watch, but for me it makes no sense to not be in the airplane during the flight.

So, on April 18, I got my ride in Wee Willy II, whose specifications are shown here. Here I am in the display area before roll out. A bit later Wee Willy II is being towed out to the pre-flight area. Ah yes, Wee Willy II does use some fuel, so here they are making sure there is is plenty of fuel onboard, since the aircraft burns around 40 gallons of fuel per hour. Fueling finished, there is some discussion about preflight. Here we determine where the watchers could watch from. Eventually I am loaded up and looking happy. Here's the pilot, Tom Nightingale, buckling up.

Now things are getting serious. A little warning here: This now becomes mostly video clips, which, depending on your broadband speed, may take some time to download. I'll include in parenthesis before the link, the size of the file in Mbytes so you can decide how badly you want to see that clip. Here's the (13.7) Packard Merlin V-12 start-up. To really get the sound effect, turn volume up on HIGH (you really don't want to do that). Now we begin to (4.9) taxi. On the way out we pass by the two watchers, Amelia and Carol (my cousin, once removed, whom I hadn't seen in around 40 years) on their way to where they could watch and wait.

After taxiing to the runway, we got permission to take off. Here's what Amelia caught of the (2.7) takeoff. I should mention that trying to catch a takeoff with a digital camera is pretty dicey. Unless it has a viewfinder (this one did), but then it also has to be used. Oh well. I caught the takeoff from a different (4.2) vantage point. I took a couple of pictures after takeoff, this one is the Big League Dreams ball fields in Chino Hills. A bit later is this one of Butterfield Ranch Road. We then headed off to the mountains (hills?) and we swoooped and swerved through some (4.9) mountain valleys. And then some views where I caught (10.9) our shadow below. Here's one where we are (21.3) banking left and right. We then came out about 10 miles southeast of (5.9) Corona along I-15. Here's a short one starting with a (2.1) steep left bank. Then the pièce de résistance, which can use a little description of what is happening. First a bank to the right followed by a bank to left to see if all is clear, and this followed by a climb and proceeding into the (13.5) barrel roll. We got a look at Lake Perris. After this we took a low pass down the main runway at (9.9) March Air Reserve Base. From there we took a close up and personal look at (14.5) Lake Mathews. Too soon, it was head back to the Chino Airport and (34.5) landing. As we taxied in I got this video of (1.6) Carol getting a video of us as we (4.2) taxi in.

After the Mustang was parked, I climbed into the pilot's seat to see how things looked (just fine). Here's a shot of a fellow from New Zealand that we chatted with. He came expressly to fly the SBD-5 Dauntless parked near the Mustang, since this plane was flown by a New Zealand crew in the battle of Midway. But, I digress. I got a little more cockpit time before climbing out and sliding sliding off the wing. (these last two pictures thanks to Carol).

Why a Mustang instead other warbirds available for rides (at POFM and other Museums and maybe other places, too)? There are several reasons. First, there are many currently flying P-51 Mustangs, maybe as many as a couple hundred. The only other for me would be a P-38 Lightning, but no chance I could afford to do that. Another reason the Mustang is interesting to me is that it probably was the first airplane that had mathematically defined fuselage, and the reason that makes it interesting is that I worked in surface representation and design for a number years when I was actually working instead of playing full time. There is more interesting information about Wee Willy II on MustangsMustangs. According to them, Wee Willy II has a long and storied life. It was a participant in the Reno Air Races, but before that it was highly modified, including installation of a Rolls Royce Griffon engine with contra-rotating double three bladed propellers. This was probably the Griffon 83 (2340 HP). They called that airplane the #5 Red Baron, and presumably it was this version of the airplane that set a piston engine speed record of 499.08 mph before it crashed in the aforementioned Reno Air Races. There are many pictures on that site on the airplane in its various incarnations.

Thanks to those that made contributions that made the flight possible. It was a great 33 minutes and I'm ready to do it again on my 100th birthday; but perhaps I'll fly a few other warbirds and bombers in the meantime. Speaking of bombers, after we landed and parked, they pulled out a (1.1) B-25 Mitchell (like the Dolittle raiders flew off an aircraft carrier headed for Japan in 1942; April 18th, in fact, but until I looked that up I didn't realize my flight was on the 70th anniversary of that event). I caught the (10.8) start of the starboard engine, followed by (4.3) taxi toward the runway.