Tragedy at Reno
Reno Air Races 2011 cancelled on Friday 16th September
Veteran air race pilot Jimmy Leeward crashed during the Gold Heat on Friday. Leeward and
several on the ground perished in the crash. More in P-51 News
and in Reno 2011.
The North American P-51 Mustang
World War II:
It was decided by Allied commanders that a full time
strategic bombing campaign would cripple the enemy over time and allow ground troops
the advantage they needed to first stop the advancing German Army and then push them
back into Germany. This included the practice of daylight bombing raids on German targets.
The 1st daylight bombing mission by a US unit was on 4th July, 1942. Two out of the six
RAF A-20s were lost.
On 17 August 1943, 60 out of 376 American bombers were lost!
Almost all the losses coming beyond the range of the bomber escort. Early escort
included the RAF Spitfire and the USAAF P-47 Thunderbolt. Even with drop tanks, the
range of these fighters would barely reach to the Germany border. After that, the
Luftwaffe, laid in wait.
14th October of 1943, another 60 were lost in a single day, "Black Thursday".
The B-17 had a crew of 10 men. Many did not get out
and if they did get out and get their chute to deploy, evading capture and
returning to England was very diffucult.
At that loss rate, the practice of daytime bombing raids was in question.
It should be noted that the concept of the P-51 Mustang began
more than three years before the first
daylight bombing missions and the heavy losses. It is often accepted that the
P-51 Mustang was designed to be an escort fighter, but as you look at the timeline,
it is more plausible that the Mustang, as a fighter aircraft, fit that need better than any other
fighter available. By the time heavy bomber losses were at hand, the P-51B and P-51C,
with outstanding range, were already in production and being delivered to bases
The bombers of the daylight missions were taking very heavy losses
each day from Luftwaffe pilots until an escort fighter could stay with
them deep into enemy territory and home again on every mission.
The North American P-51 Mustang was the immediate choice. The bomber crews
nicknamed them their "little friends."
It all started in 1939, when the British needed more fighter aircraft. They showed
interest in the Curtiss P-40 Warhark and the Bell P-39 Aircobra amoung others. Neither were
their first choice, but that was the best that the Americans had and the British could
not wait for any new designs. They decided the P-40 would be the one.
James H. "Dutch" Kindelberger, president of North American Aviation,
was approached by the British to build the P-40 at the North American production
facility because Curtiss Aircraft was at full capacity. Kindelberger told the
British that it would take 120 days to tool up for the P-40.
During that time, North American Aviation was under contract to produce NA-16
training aircraft for the British.
Then Kindelberger somehow, with no real evidence that it could be done, convinced
the Sir Henry Self and the British Purchasing Commission, that North American
Aviation could design and build a new fighter that was
better than the P-40. The new fighter would fly faster, higher, farther, be more
maneuverable and pack more firepower.
The British took NAA at their word because they
had performed well with British orders for the NAA Harvard trainer.
British approval by letter of intent was given on 10th April 1940. Shortly after,
23 May, a contract order was placed by the
British for the first 320 aircraft designated NA-73.
NAA vice-president Lee Atwood was sent to Curtiss Aircraft to pick up the wind
tunnel data of the Curtiss XP-46 that NAA purchased for $56,000 at British request.
Although sources at NAA stated that the XP-46 design was not used in the development
of NA-73, you cannot help to notice some basic similarities. The protoype XP-46 flew a
top speed of only 355 mph at 12,000 feet. The XP-46 was never put
into production but the Allison used on the XP-46 was incorporated in the next
P-40, the P-40D.
Kindelberger put Edgar Schmued in charge of the new P-51 prototype design, NA-73X.
Others who worked with Schmued included Ed Horkey, Raymond Rice , Larry Waite
and Art Chester. After 78,000 man hours and
102 days later, the prototype, NA-73X, rolled out of the hangar - without an engine.
18 days later, the Allison V-1710-39 was ready and on
26 October 1940, NX19998 took to the skies for its maiden flight with test pilot
Vance Breese at the controls. On 9 December 1940 the British Purchasing Comission
sent a letter to North American Aviation stating that the NA-73 airplanes have
been given the official designation of "Mustang".
Back in 1938, Kindelberger had visited the German aircraft factories of Heinkel and Messerschmitt
and used what notes he took to help in setting up an extremely efficient production line.
At peak times NAA produced 857 P-51s in one month! Production was so good that
there were rows of completed P-51Ds at the NAA factory in Inglewood, CA
just waiting for delivery pilots. (I want that job).
Part of the US approval for export to Britain was that 2 examples of the Mustang
would be turned over to the USAAF for evaluation at no cost. The US was very
slow to evaluate the new fighter designated XP-51. After evaluation they were
also slow to place orders, but interest picked up and orders were placed by
the US which included the A-36 Apache. The A-36 was a P-51A set up for
dive-bombing ground attack. In all over 15,000 P-51 Mustangs of all types
were built from 1940-1945.
Significant design changes came about when the Rolls-Royce
Merlin V-12 was used in the P-51B/C and then when the bubble canopy
P-51D/K was introduced. The P-51D was the most produced model
and was favored among most pilots. The P-51H was a redesigned lighter-weight
version but entered service to late to make an impact on WWII. The P-51H is
noticably different in design and uses less than ten percent of the parts from
the P-51D. Another light-weight, the P-51G prototypes were
produced and tested. Other models, like the P-51L, P-51M never made it to
production becuase the war ended.
The P-51 Mustang is credited with providing very effective long range bomber escort.
The Allied daylight bombing campaign proved extremely successful by strangling the support lines
of the enemy and nearly stopping the production of war-time machinery. The P-51 Mustang
and the men that flew them saved lives in the skies and on the ground.
The North American P-51D Mustang:
Beautiful then, beautiful now.
Who would have thought, back in 1944, that this escort fighter would still be
flying in the year 2009 (and beyond). The Mustang was built for the highest
performance with less thought for longevity.
With the hard work of warbird fanatics around the globe, about 280 P-51s still exist
today with more than half still airworthy! A few of the remaining P-51s
) have the distinction of serving for more than 30 years
with 4 different Air Forces around the world!
MustangsMustangs Featured Sections:
P-51 Mustang Variants
Descriptions of the development and production of the North American P-51 Mustang
with little history thrown in.
A-36, P-51, P-51A, P-51B, P-51C, P-51D, P-51K, P-51H, Mustang I-V and the
lightweights, P-51F, P-51G, P-51J. Over 15,000 units produced in a very short
time. The North American Aviation factory and staff were put to the test during
World War II.
A very large collection (over 6000) of P-51 images from WWII to today.
Air to Air Photos
Sepia / Black & White
Great set of images from readers around the world.
P-51 Message Board
P-51 Who? approaching 400 cases!
Test your aviation memory and knowledge. Can you identify these P-51s? Send us
your '50s, '60s, '70s, & '80s P-51 images. One of the most popular (and fun)
sections of MustangsMustangs
The LIST of Today's P-51s
P-51 Survivors (09/18/11)
The list of existing P-51s today as we count them. Serial#s, registrations,
names, owners, home base, status and images. Updated as new information comes
in. The most heavily traveled section at MustangsMustangs. Listed in Serial #
NEW forum design
Post your P-51 related messages or see
if you can help other readers. We are lucky to have a very smart P-51 group
P-51 Air Shows
Pics and reports from airshows where the P-51 Mustang is in attendance. Chino,
Eaa Airventure (Oshkosh), Gathering of Mustangs 1999/2007 and the Reno Air Races
are amoung the shows to choose from.
Specs for all of the production models,
production count and serial numbers.
List of all serial numbers and construction numbers matched with construction
blocks and model numbers.
P-51 Accident Reports
NTSB accident reports from 1983
can be viewed online.
Hear the roar of the Merlin! Wav #1
P-51 Flyby Wav #2
Merlin Start-up Wav #3
Download the Merlin wav files. There is no
better way to get your computer started.
See the Merlin V-1650!
The Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin V-12.
See the Allison V-1710!
Used in the A-36 and P-51A models.
Mustang Stories / News
Latest P-51 News and Stories
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- Dago Red sold to Former Crew Member
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- Reno Air Races Gold Final Cancelled due to Wind
- Paul Besterveld to Restore 44-73454 "This Is It"
- P-51 Owner / pilot Nazzi Hirani died when he crashed in his P-51 during
landing in March 2010. Hirani was an avid supportor of warbird aviation.
- Long time P-51 owner and pilot Tom Wood passes away.
- 44-73751 was stored outside for 30+ years, now it is fully restored and flying.
- Cavalier Mustang Legend David Lindsay dies after fight with Parkinson's disease.
- Famed P-51 Racer "Dago Red" was sold in May 2009 to one of the original
owners, Frank Taylor
- Long time air show and air race pilot Lefty Gardner passes in December 2008
- N551W, 44-14985 "Millie G" suffered a loss of power during take-off and landed
gear up off runway and slid to a stop across a taxiway and into a fence.