The Greatest P-51 Story


From: Want to get a good cry?  Read this one! - Don

Subject: Old Aviators and Old Airplanes.....Great Story!

 Old Aviators and Old Airplanes.....
 This is a good little story about a vivid memory of a P-51 and its pilot
by a fellow who was 12 years old in Canada in 1967. 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 U.S. 
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, and 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 the
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 this story; call it a reciprocal
salute, to the old American pilot who wove a memory for a young Canadian
 that's lasted a lifetime.

( Forward to your Pilot Friends)