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Home > Airplanes > Old Aviators and Old Airplanes...
Old Aviators and Old Airplanes...
Aviation - Airplanes
Monday, 24 December 2007 06:47
P51 Mustang

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 us e -- '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 t o 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 Kin gston.'

'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 G's 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-h anded 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.

George Cockburn

(Story forwarded to me by Capt Lum KT)

P51 Mustang vs Ki84


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Comments (11)

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Old Pilots
I would like to get in touch with the young man in CA. whom this article is about. I am an avid P 51 buff.


Bill Boyer
Bill Boyer , 04 Jan, 2008
Old Aviators and Old Airplanes...
Hope someone who reads this story can help Bill out... smilies/smiley.gif
CaptainLim , 05 Jan, 2008
Old Aviators and Old Airplanes...
Who is the author? The P-51 story...

Hope you can help!
Captain John D. Gallagher , 05 Jan, 2008
Old Aviators and Old Airplanes...
Hi Captain Gallagher,

This story was forwarded to me and I am not absolutely sure about the origin or who the author is.

Hope some readers can help out on this ...
Captain Lim , 05 Jan, 2008
The Mustang story . . .
Hello, My name is Lea MacDonald, and as you asked, I am the writer of the story. Its original title is: P-51, An American Ambassador Remembered.

I am glad you enjoyed the snapshot from a simpler place in time.

Kindest regards,

Lea MacDonald
Lea , 04 May, 2008
The Mustang story . . . writer's embellishments?!
In 1967 (Expo 67) there was no active "control tower" at the Kingston airport.

The old Transport building was erected in 1969 and housed the weather office and the Transport Coast Guard Radio Station. The Flight Service also began operation in that building in 1976 with its official opening taking place in 1977. The Coast Guard Radio moved to Cardinal shortly thereafter. Flight Service moved into its new tower facility in 1992 and have been there ever since.

The last active "control tower" at the Kingston airport, to my knowledge, was for the Commonwealth Air Training Program that took place there during WWII.
Michael Gillespie , 27 Mar, 2009
No embellishments at all . . .
Hello, no where within the story is there any mention of a control tower - no where.

Despite your historical account of the facility, the story still remains devoid of any mention of a control tower. Simply put, there was none and none was mentioned.

I fail to see how your comment is even remotely germane to this story.
Lea MacDonald , 03 Jul, 2009
There is no mention of a tower . . .
I fail to see how your comment above is even remotely germane to this story. Simply put, there is no mention of a tower any place in the story.

There is no embellishment in this story what so ever.
Lea MacDonald , 03 Jul, 2009
Someone who can actually read and comprehend
The radio controller rushed by me to the radio. "Kingstontower calling Mustang."
That is a direct quote from the above article.
Give it up:
#1 apparently you can't ready and
#2 the story is a crock...
Jim McComas , 08 Jul, 2009
To the someone who claims they can actually read and comprehend . . .
Apparently YOU can't read and that fact does not negate the story.

The story I read was the original. Not this edited, and passed-around piece. The original is here: http://www.rense.com/general69/p51.htm
please note the date.

Also, please look for any mention of tower - none! The Original text stated: "Kingston radio calling Mustang."

Also, there was never any exclamation mark after ". . . imagine . . . a salute." This too was added by someone who decided the moment should have been exciting rather than poignant.

There are many edited, some slight, others complete gutting of the story, floating around.

Read the original as I did and see if your position still holds - it will not, dor does it.

You sir, are the crock!

Lea , 18 Nov, 2009
Read the original - I did . . .

That's what I read, not this passed-around-edited-by-anyone-with-a-keyboard piece.

Note the date on the original. Now tell me you comprehend.

And if you still come to the same conclusion, you're the crock!

Lea , 18 Nov, 2009

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