Ev­ery Pi­lot Dreams of Mus­tangs

Model Airplane News - - FLIGHT TEST -

This iconic WW II fighter is an amaz­ing air­craft, and it holds a spe­cial place in many pi­lots’ heart. When Flight Jour­nal editor-in-chief Budd Davis­son fi­nally got the chance to scratch his Mus­tang itch, he went down to Paris, Texas, to en­list the help of mas­ter in­struc­tor “Ju­nior” Burchi­nal, who ran a flight school that teaches pi­lots how to fly war­birds. Be­fore Budd even got close to the Mus­tang, Ju­nior had him strap into an AT-6 “Texan” and log 10 hours. The first check flight that Budd got in the Mus­tang was with him stuffed into the back sec­tion of the P-51’s sin­gle­place cock­pit with Ju­nior at the con­trols. Budd was wedged into the space that once housed the WW II ra­dio gear, and he was peer­ing over Ju­nior’s left shoul­der. At the time, there were no two-seater Mus­tangs, so he watched Ju­nior put the air­plane through its paces call­ing out the im­por­tant num­bers. The first thing Budd learned was that a Mus­tang pi­lot does not climb onto the plane from the trail­ing edge. Even though there is a step open­ing in the top of the flaps, ex­pe­ri­enced Mus­tang driv­ers climb up onto the left main gear tire and get up over the lead­ing edge to make their way to the side of the cock­pit. Once in the cock­pit, Budd no­ticed that the Mus­tang’s con­trol lay­out is al­most ex­actly the same as that of the AT-6 Texan (both air­craft were pro­duced by the North Amer­i­can Air­craft Co.). Engine startup is stan­dard fare: Hit the primer a few times, then hit the starter but­ton; af­ter about four blades, light up the mags and the engine erupts with ex­plo­sive sound! The Mus­tang’s cock­pit is very noisy with the canopy open. The next thing Budd learned was how to taxi. The tail­wheel is steer­able, but you have to push the stick all the way for­ward to let it swivel. The Mus­tang’s long land­ing gear pro­vide nice ground han­dling, but the nose is way up there; you have to do S-turns to clear the way ahead as you make your way to the run­way. (Budd notes that, at this point in his avi­a­tion ca­reer, he had much more time than your typ­i­cal WW II pi­lot fresh out of pi­lot school. These young re­cruits had maybe 350 hours un­der their belt when they strapped in the Mus­tang for the first time.) On the run­way, once Budd pushed the throt­tle for­ward, the Mus­tang ac­cel­er­ated quickly and there’s some P-fac­tor to deal with as the tail comes up. You in­stantly have great vis­i­bil­ity over the nose. A lit­tle more right rud­der is needed to keep the nose straight down the run­way, and the Mus­tang re­sponds and be­haves much bet­ter than the Texan. With the gear tucked up, it climbs at 2,000 feet per minute and no re­trim is needed. At about 10,000 feet, Budd checked the stall speed, which breaks at about 88mph. The ailerons re­mained solid and re­spon­sive. Bring­ing the Mus­tang back to the barn, Budd pow­ered back and set up his ap­proach. He was ner­vous about land­ing this heavy—and ex­pen­sive—air­plane. Slow­ing to about 170mph, he low­ered the nose to about 30 de­grees; at about 115 mph, with full flaps and gear down, he had great vis­i­bil­ity all the way down. He started to lower the tail for a three-point land­ing (which is what Ju­nior wanted him to do), and from about 6 inches above the run­way, the air­plane dropped in for a smooth land­ing and a 2,000-foot runout. Taxi­ing back to the han­gar, Budd could not help but smile—he had soloed in a P-51D Mus­tang!

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