Posted by: blogengeezer | November 23, 2015

P-51 impresses Canadian boy

I like this story, posted it before and now re-posted it, with a few details at the end.

This 1967 true story is of an experience by a young 12 year old lad in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. It is about the vivid memory of a privately rebuilt P-51 from WWII, and its famous owner/pilot.

In the morning sun, I could not believe my eyes. There, in our little airport, sat a majestic P-51.
They said it had flown in during the night from some U.S. Airport, on its
way to an air show. The pilot had been tired, so he just happened to
choose Kingston for his stop over.  It was to take to the air very
soon.  I marveled at the size of the plane, dwarfing the Pipers and
Canuck’s 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 pilot’s
lounge.  He was an older man; his wavy hair was gray and tossed. It
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 tall, lanky man 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 use — “If you see a fire,
point, then pull this lever!”, he said.  (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 with an arrogant snarl.  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
ran 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 to 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. It’s tail was already off the runway
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 hellishly 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, Kingston.”
“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
just, more or less, asked the pilot to return for an impromptu air
show!  The controller looked at us. “Well, 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 3,000 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. Her wing tips spilling
contrails of condensed air, prop-tips again supersonic.
The burnished bird
blasted across the eastern margin of the field shredding and tearing the
air. At about 500 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 indelible 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-handed beacon of security who navigated difficult political water
with grace and style; not unlike the old American 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 loving reciprocal salute to a Country, and especially to
that old American pilot:  the late-JIMMY STEWART (1908-1997),  Actor, real WWII
Hero  (Commander of a US Army Air Force Bomber Wing stationed in
England), and later 1959, awarded USAF Reserves Brigadier General, (B-36, Peacemaker under SAC, B-47, and B-52) who wove a wonderfully
fantastic memory for a young Canadian boy that’s lasted a lifetime.

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