High above O.C. – in a vintage P-51

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by syscom3, Sep 23, 2008.

  1. syscom3

    syscom3 Pacific Historian

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2005
    Messages:
    12,631
    Likes Received:
    309
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Orange County, CA
    News: High above O.C. – in a vintage P-51 | wagner, wags, through, going, never - OCRegister.com

    Tuesday, September 23, 2008
    High above O.C. – in a vintage P-51
    Frank Mickadeit
    Columnist
    The Orange County Register
    [email protected] Comments 1| Recommend 4

    Every time an air show would come through town, they'd have a reporter go up in one of the Blue Angels jets with an aviator who tried – and usually succeeded – to get the reporter to throw up.

    The Navy's goal was to promote the show; the aviator's was to get the reporter to vomit. While I never shy away from a good heave, I was never that enamored of the modern aircraft, so I never went.

    The planes I loved were the World War II aircraft — pistons and propellers – but the opportunities to fly in those never came. Until last week. Marc Greeley called to ask if I would pimp the Newport Beach Concours d'Elegance Gala. I was lukewarm until he mentioned he'd get me a ride in a P-51 Mustang, one of the old war birds to be displayed at the Gala.

    So Thursday afternoon, I found myself at the Chino airport going through a preflight check from pilot-owner Ken "Wags" Wagner. If there were an engine fire, I was to unhook my seat belt and dive out the right side of the cockpit, aiming for the rear tail flap – which would be hurtling by my head at about 400 mph – then pull the parachute ripcord. "Then it either opens or it doesn't," he said.

    Wagner, a surgeon at St. Jude's, bought the P-51 a few years ago for $1.6 million. It was a difficult aircraft to master for the young WW II fliers. What made it faster than any other Allied fighter – the wing design – also made it susceptible to stalls. A lot of pilots were killed in training.

    Conversely, once the P-51 got into combat over Europe, it was a savior to the crews of the lumbering Allied bombers because it could escort them deep into Germany. "A lot of (bomber) guys came home because of this plane," Wagner said. "Yeah," I said, "my dad was one of them."

    I wedged myself into the makeshift rear seat and Wagner climbed into the front. "Clear!" he yelled. He hit the ignition and the prop started to turn. The big 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin coughed and caught, smoke initially blowing back across the opened cockpit. Wagner cranked the plexi-glass canopy shut and we taxied to the runway of the small airfield.

    Wagner revved the engine to 2,200 rpm and we began hurtling down the strip. We left the ground quickly, without so much as a shudder. While the notion of going aloft in a notoriously twitchy 60-year-old airframe had had me nervous– I don't even do roller coasters – I'd decided to take myself to another place, to imagine the farmland were passing over was the English countryside.

    I took in the cockpit. Steel cables that control the flaps ran along side me. A small chart with the maximum diving speeds for different altitudes was riveted to the frame on my left. We crossed over the 91, jammed in both directions. Couldn't we strafe it just once?

    I looked to my right and saw a silver object flying about five miles away. I hit the intercom button. "Bogey at your 2 o'clock," I warned Wags. "That's a 737 going to John Wayne," he replied. "Roger," I said. Couldn't we at least just scare the hell out of them?

    I'd expected it to be loud, hot and smelly. It was, but I embraced it. The engine sounded strong and comforting.

    We crossed into Orange County. At 4,200 feet, we passed between Irvine Lake and the El Toro base, doing about 300 mph. We came to the Saddleback ridge, flew even with the peaks, then climbed a little and flew directly over Santiago, just 500 feet above its antenna farm.

    Wags picked out a couple of small clouds and pointed us into them. It's when you're going through these suspended puffs of white cotton candy that you feel the real sense of speed. "It's this indescribable!" Wags shouted through the intercom.

    He went into a roll and we flew upside down for a few moments, then righted and pierced another cloud. We flew out to Big Bear Lake, made a sweeping left turn over Arrowhead. We rolled again. It was a perfect flying day, Wags said.

    "Unfortunately, a lot of the guys who got to see this didn't come home," he said over the intercom as we headed back to the barn. "I don't ever forget that."

    See video and photos of Frank in the P-51 at News - Columns - Frank Mickadeit - The Orange County Register The P-51 and other vintage aircraft will be displayed at the gala Friday at John Wayne Airport. gala


    Mickadeit writes Mon.-Fri. Contact him at 714-796-4994 or [email protected]
     

    Attached Files:

  2. wilbur1

    wilbur1 Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2007
    Messages:
    2,206
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    36
    Occupation:
    Mechanik
    Location:
    Escondido,Ca
    Great find Syscom that bird is beutifull:D
     
  3. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2004
    Messages:
    41,790
    Likes Received:
    519
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Doctor
    Location:
    Portsmouth / Royal Deeside, UK
    Home Page:
    Yep she sure is! Thanks for sharing sys.
     
  4. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2004
    Messages:
    7,911
    Likes Received:
    189
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Occupation:
    IT Nerd
    Location:
    Dallas, Tx Jubail, Saudi Arabia
    VERY cool.!!!!!
     
  5. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    Messages:
    47,726
    Likes Received:
    1,421
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Retired
    Location:
    Cheshire, UK
    Oh! What I would give..........
     
  6. diamondaviator15

    diamondaviator15 New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2014
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    1
  7. bobbysocks

    bobbysocks Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2010
    Messages:
    3,811
    Likes Received:
    181
    Trophy Points:
    63
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
Loading...

Share This Page