Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Sneak Peek at this Weekends Mustang Ground School

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the word “Mustang”?

A car, right?

Well, think again – and this time, think airplane.

The North American-built Mustang, or P51, is the finest piston engine fighter of all time. Take the best characteristics of the Hurricane, P40 and Spitfire and make them better, and you have a Mustang.

Designed and built within only 117 days by North American Aviation, the Mustang first flew in 1940. In total, over 16,000 were produced.

It was initially powered by an Allison engine, but the single-stage supercharger limited the aircraft’s high-altitude performance. Later models had the two-stage, two-speed supercharged Merlin engine, which gave the Mustang superb characteristics at high altitudes. Although the service ceiling was 41,900ft, the RCAF restricted them to 36,000ft due solely to the oxygen system.

With a top speed of 505mph, it cruised comfortably around 362mph. It was also a relatively long-range aircraft; while the Spitfire held 100 gallons of fuel, the Mustang was able to hold 420 gallons, allowing it to escort daylight bomber formations to Berlin and back. P51s were also used in the Korean war until being replaced by F86s, they equipped 5 RCAF Auxiliary squadrons in the 1950s, and were used by South American air forces into the 1980s.

This is all well and nice – but how do they fly?

“It’s very predictable,” reports Vintage Wings President, volunteer pilot and ground school presenter Rob Fleck, “The trim is very effective, and the cockpit is roomy and well laid out for fighters at the time. The pitch control gets light when the boundary layer separates as you approach the stall, and as you increase in speed, the aileron and elevator control gets really heavy. At 350mph, this is a two-handed airplane.”

This is just a tantalizing tease of the Mustang information and insight available at this weekend’s Warbird U Ground School. It is not too late to sign up! Registration includes lunch on both days, a tour of the Vintage Wings hangar, a personal Mustang cockpit tour, a hero shot sitting in the cockpit, and a graduation certificate. And brand new is “Warbird U Light” – for $50 you get one day of lectures, without the aircraft tour. Visit to sign up or learn more.

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