Sunday, July 6, 2014

P51 Bucket List

The Collins Foundation is an organization dedicated to the preservation of WWII airplanes.  They brought four of their airplanes to the Minden Airport.  A B17, B24, B25 and a P51 Mustang.  For a donation to the foundation you can get a ride in one of the planes.  They even offer "stick time" in the P51.  I decided to take a one hour ride in the P51.  My dad was a WWII fighter pilot, flying Corsairs.  While the P51 is not the same as a Corsair, it gave me some idea of my dad's experiences flying the airplanes of that era.

This is the only P51 in existence with a full set of dual controls.  The Pilot took a look at my pilot's log book and commented on the amount of training I had.  He told me that he would taxi and do the take off.  He would manage the power settings. Getting strapped was quite a process.  The P51 is a single seater, so they have squeezed in the back seat and flight controls.  First came the four straps for the parachute, then a four point harness.  I was given instructions on how to "bale out".  I was quite convinced I would not be able to extricate myself I was so tightly squeezed in.  When they closed the canopy over my head I was starting to feel a little claustrophobic.  It was hot, I tightly squeezed in, it smelled of oil and my butt was already starting to go asleep from the metal seat.  I considered calling it all off, then I saw my friend Don Dixon taking pictures. I knew I had to go through with it.  We took off on runway 34 and  at about 800 feet AGL the pilot said "your airplane".  All my claustrophobic distractions were immediately forgotten.  The plane is very responsive.  I instantly adapted to using a stick instead of a yoke.  I found the plane actually easier to fly than the Cessna.  Hardly any rudder inputs are necessary.  I circled the airport and then circled my office a couple of times.  (no one noticed)  Then we flew up over Carson Pass and Lake Tahoe, the back into the valley.  You can cover a lot a ground going 210 knots.  (241 MPH)  Then the pilot taught me to do Barrel Rolls.  Shallow dive to pick up speed to 210 then pull up pretty steeply and push the stick over.  A little rudder to finish it off.  I followed the pilot on the controls for one, then he followed me for one.  Then he told me to one by myself and then another.  After the second one he said, "that was a perfect barrel roll".  Talk about making my day.  As I was flying the plane, I was thinking, "this is probably a Million dollar airplane.  It's not mine so I should fly conservatively.  After the barrel rolls the pilot said "my airplane" and he dropped it down to about 1000 feet AGL and we went roaring up the Carson Canyon and over Faith, Hope and Charity Valleys.  I mentioned to the pilot, "I don't think I'd do this in my Cessna."  He said, "no you probably shouldn't.  I think he was telling me in a nice way that "This is not a Cessna and you can push it a little more." He gave the controls back to me and we flew over Topaz Lake.  On five mile final he took the plane back and landed.

My instrument view

I couldn't really see out the front, I just used the side windows for my visual references.  luckily I'm familiar with the Valley.

Coolest Log Book Entry Ever

1 comment:

Jesse said...

This makes me so happy. I am so glad you got to do this, Dad! Wish we could have been there!