On July 4, 2016, I flew in the P-51C. Got a little instruction and stick time, and a 0.7 hour log book entry I will treasure for the rest of my life. It was every bit as amazing and cool as I expected.
After a few mins getting the feel of the P-51, this conundrum hit me. Sure it has enough fire-breathing power and performance to kill you in a blink, and there’s this foreboding sense of responsibility not wanting to screw up and destroy a magnificent 70-year-old piece of history despite having the CFI on board doing the real flying. Yet at the same time I expected the P-51 to be this beasty monster and instead found it so smooth and responsive and natural feeling, not just fast but also quick despite its weight, sensitive but not twitchy, just a really sweet flying airplane. I don’t mean to imply it’s easy to fly, at 0.7 hours I’m no judge of that, I don’t even have the skill to fly it on my own – the CFI up front did all the hard work. Even so, it seemed much more well behaved than I expected which left me in even greater awe of the men who designed it, and admiration for the men who mastered this airplane and flew it into battle.
From what I’ve read, more than half the pilots and planes lost during WW-II were in training or other non-combat activities. That goes to show that flying warbirds like the P-51 and AT-6 is like holding a tiger by the tail. I expected the tiger to be evident in every aspect of the plane: noise, control, handling, vibration, twitchiness, etc. What I didn’t expect was such a smooth responsive sweet flying airplane. Yet this actually makes it even more scary and dangerous because the tiger hides and whispers “you can do it”, until it suddenly strikes.
Photos & videos here.