Stal­lion 51

EV­ERY FLIGHT IS A LES­SON

Flight Journal - - SO YOU WANNA FLY A WARBIRD - stal­lion51.com

Stal­lion 51, lo­cated in Kis­sim­mee, Florida, is a pro­fes­sional flight oper­a­tion that of­fers a wide range of warbird-ori­ented ser­vices be­sides sim­ply putting an in­di­vid­ual at the con­trols of a P-51 Mus­tang. Stal­lion 51 is the go-to place for new Mus­tang own­ers and pi­lots, but the lion’s share of its busi­ness is let­ting those who have al­ways dreamed of fly­ing a Mus­tang ac­tu­ally live out their dream. There are, how­ever, no “rides” given. Each flight has clients go­ing through a thor­ough pre­flight brief­ing be­fore be­ing ush­ered to one of two dual-cock­pit/dual-con­trolled Mus­tangs, where they re­ceive in­struc­tion. The “stu­dents” have vir­tu­ally ev­ery con­trol the in­struc­tor has, and de­pend­ing on the mis­sion—whether a check­out train­ing or flight of fan­tasy—the “stu­dents” will get more than their share of stick time.

This is rather im­prob­a­ble and very suc­cess­ful busi­ness was borne of, and is based on, one thing: a pas­sion for the North Amer­i­can P-51 Mus­tang. And pas­sion is some­thing Lee Laud­er­back, Stal­lion 51’s founder and pres­i­dent, has in

abun­dance. Among other things, he has logged well over 9,000 hours in Mus­tangs, prob­a­bly a world record.

“I guess I have North Amer­i­can in my blood,” he says. “At two years of age, my first air­plane ride was in a North Amer­i­can Navion with my dad. I be­gan fly­ing glid­ers at 14, soloed on my 16th birth­day, and got my pri­vate li­cense soon there­after. Com­mer­cial, ATP [ad­vanced turbo-prop], and CFI [cer­ti­fied flight in­struc­tor] fol­lowed, as age al­lowed. I wanted to fly mil­i­tary fight­ers; my eyes weren’t quite good enough, so af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Em­bry-Rid­dle [Aero­nau­ti­cal Univer­sity], I drifted into the cor­po­rate fly­ing world. As chief pi­lot, I flew Arnold Palmer’s jets and he­li­copter for 18 years, but the Mus­tang was al­ways reach­ing out to me.

“A defin­ing mo­ment,” he con­tin­ues, “is prob­a­bly when Gor­don Plas­kett put me in the front seat of his TF-51 and let me fly it with him. That was it! I was hooked. In 1987, a part­ner, Doug Schultz, and I bought a TF-51 and started fly­ing un­der con­tract for the

Navy’s Test Pi­lot School at NAS Patux­ent River, Mary­land, as well as do­ing ori­en­ta­tion flights and check­out train­ing. This was the be­gin­ning of Stal­lion 51. In the late 1990s, I bought him out and be­gan ex­pand­ing the com­pany. I’m one of five boys; my twin broth­ers, Peter and Richard Laud­er­back, have their own busi­ness: Stal­lion 51 Main­te­nance. They are the best Mus­tang me­chan­ics you’ll ever meet, and we have a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship: I break ’em—they fix ’em. They also build them, and our lit­tle brother, John Laud­er­back, he sells them.

“As we ex­panded from mil­i­tary con­tract­ing, I be­gan look­ing at a dif­fer­ent au­di­ence. At the time, the warbird com­mu­nity was like the

Wild West with very lit­tle train­ing or thought given to safe op­er­a­tions of war­birds in gen­eral, with the Mus­tang be­ing the most nu­mer­ous of the breed. Things have changed since then as the re­sult of ris­ing costs, FAA reg­u­la­tions, and in­sur­ance. The com­mu­nity now rec­og­nizes the value of train­ing.”

At the same time that the de­mand for train­ing was build­ing, the Mus­tang’s rep­u­ta­tion and gen­eral nos­tal­gic at­trac­tion was also grow­ing and that be­came a Stal­lion 51 mar­ket unto it­self.

Lee says, “It’s hard to imag­ine how far­reach­ing the Mus­tang is; the air­plane is rec­og­nized world­wide. Fur­ther, the Mus­tang’s ap­peal isn’t lim­ited to a spe­cific gen­er­a­tion. It draws in the youngest and the old­est, each for their own rea­sons. Last year was a par­tic­u­lar stel­lar year for Stal­lion 51, in both so­cial me­dia and print, keep­ing our two Mus­tangs quite busy.

“To­day, a per­son can walk in our front door for their ap­point­ment, and when they walk out, they do so with a clearer un­der­stand­ing what it takes to fly a Mus­tang. The pre­flight brief­ing (which ad­dresses a spe­cific syl­labus), the flight, and the de­brief­ing thor­oughly sat­u­rate them with Mus­tang knowl­edge, and they come away with a much bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the air­plane and its place in his­tory. More im­por­tant, the sights, sounds, and smells that can only be found in a fighter cock­pit give them an en­tirely dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive of aerial com­bat. When I see that grin on a per­son’s face af­ter the flight, hav­ing been there my­self, I know just how ex­cited they are. A dream has come true, and we’ve been part of mak­ing that hap­pen. It’s all very cool! Mus­tangs for­ever!”

“IT’S HARD TO IMAG­INE HOW FAR-REACH­ING THE MUS­TANG IS; THE AIR­PLANE IS REC­OG­NIZED WORLD­WIDE. FUR­THER, THE MUS­TANG’S AP­PEAL ISN’T LIM­ITED TO A SPE­CIFIC GEN­ER­A­TION. IT DRAWS IN THE YOUNGEST AND THE OLD­EST, EACH FOR THEIR OWN REA­SONS.” —LEE LAUD­ER­BACK, STAL­LION 51

Both of Stal­lion 51’s Mus­tangs are full du­al­con­trol air­craft, so there are no “rides.” Pi­lot or not, each par­tic­i­pant re­ceives in­struc­tion in fly­ing the air­plane. (Photo by Paul Bowen/Stal­lion 51)

The Stal­lion 51 crew—KT, Beth, An­gela, Kelly, Richard, Zak, Steve, Lee, John, Bill, Peter, Marco, John, and Greg—is ex­pe­ri­enced in giv­ing the pub­lic seam­less ac­cess to the warbird ex­pe­ri­ence. (Photo cour­tesy of Stal­lion 51)

What can be bet­ter than walk­ing out to “your” Mus­tang in the predawn light? (Photo by KT Budde-Jones/Stal­lion 51)

Two of founder Lee Loud­er­back’s broth­ers, twins Richard and Peter, are part of Stal­lion 51 and are known for their war­bird­main­te­nance skills. (Photo cour­tesy of the EAA)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.