APRIL, 1999


I first heard it when I walked from my car to the motel room. Somewhere in the bright afternoon sky over US highway 192 was the source of the sound. I squinted to the west for a moment and finally picked up the movement of an aircraft silhouette headed toward me. It was the unmistakable shape of a P-51 Mustang on final approach to Kissimmee Municipal Airport. The Merlin engine was throttled back and a nice series of barks emitted from the short stacks on the famed Rolls Royce powerplant. The hum of the propeller had a distinct doppler shift, descending as the little fighter flew by. I would hear this sound many times over the next seven days and never tire of it.

What had brought me to Central Florida was the lure of a very unusual aviation event called the Gathering of Mustangs and Legends, called GML for short. GML emerged from earlier plans made by the Mustang Operation and Preservation Society (Mustang OPS), to host a series of seminars for Mustang owners and operators. Large numbers of veteran Mustang pilots as well as present day owners responded to the invitations. The list of invitees soon grew to include notables like Bud Anderson, Lee Archer, Ken Dahlberg, Robert Goebel, Bob Hoover, Robin Olds, brothers Bill and Charles Pattillo, Pete Peterson, and Chuck Yeager, all men who had flown the Mustang in World War II. As media inquiries from around the globe began to roll in, the staff at Kissimmee knew they had their work cut out for them in managing the burgeoning logistics of GML.

An ideal base of operations for GML was found in the modern facility at Stallion 51 Corporation, a highly-respected Mustang flight training organization at Kissimmee. The meeting rooms at Stallion 51 were put to good use during the seminars, and the hangar did double duty as a banquet hall after hours. Throughout the event, executive and general aviation traffic flow at Kissimmee continued normally, though bizjet movements were often interspersed with flights of P-51s.

History was in the making on Thursday, April 8, when Chuck Yeager flew P-51 "Glamorous Glen III" in formation with an A-10, F-15 and F-16 of the Air Force's Heritage Flight. Though not billed as an airshow, GML attracted the attention of the warbird-minded public, who for $25.00 a head were able to tour the ramp on Saturday, April 10th.

The majority of existing Mustangs were produced at the North American Aviation plant at Inglewood, California. They are popularly known by their colorful names, commonly applied with historical accuracy to represent a particular aircraft of WW II fame. Included in the 67 Mustangs present at GML were some lesser known variants of the breed. "Frenesi" and "Moonbeam McSwine" are from the Dallas-built P-51K production run, and "Lil Margaret" is an F-6D reconnaissance variant, complete with fuselage camera ports. "Su Su II" and "Flying Dutchman" were built at Commonwealth Aircraft in Australia. Unfortunately, neither of the two US-registered lightweight P-51H aircraft were in attendance. On Sunday, a contingent of more than two-dozen Mustangs headed south to the Experimental Aircaft Association-sponsored 25th Anniversary Sun ' Fun fly-in at Lakeland, Florida.

The author would like to thank event coordinator Angela West for her cooperation in making my visit to this unique aviation event possible. A word of thanks is also owed to the staff at Stallion 51 for their first-rate hospitality. It should be mentioned too, that without the efforts of the mechanics who roll out the tool boxes early in the morning it would have been just another week at the airport.

When summarizing my experience at GML I keep thinking back to the 1987 movie Empire of the Sun, in which a young aviation-minded Jim, played by Christian Bale, realized he was about to be freed by Allied forces and exclaimed, "P-51 Mustang, Cadillac of the Sky!" My sentiments exactly.

The following is a list of Mustangs seen by the author at GML. It is incomplete-some of those little ponies ran off before I could catch them in the viewfinder!

Mustangs at Stallion 51 Kissimmee, FL April, 1999

Orig. AAF S/N TAIL # at event Current Civ. Reg. Unit Markings Aircraft Name
474009 N988C Ain't Misbehavin'
413016413016NL5551DLX-HDove of Peace
  NL51JBB7-EBald Eagle
474409413317NL51RTVF-BDonald Duck
472051422051NL68JR Sweet Revenge
472145472145NL51PTHO-MPetie 3rd
413250472308NL151DMWD-ARidge Runner III
473264 N5428VCY-UGunfighter
473287473287N951MD7-JWorry Bird
463350413410NL51TKE2-CLou IV
511381414888NL551CBB6-YGlamorous Glen III
484390484390N2869D-ESection Eight
474404474404NL151RJCH-BDazzling Donna
472438472438N7551T Lady Alice
414450 N6341TB6-SOld Crow
474453413903NL251HRWD-LGlamorous Gal
474454474524N151HRYF-MDakota Kid
413500 N151ABHL-NFlying Dutchman
511507413321NL921HO-PCripes A'Mighty 3rd
474458415326N351DMQP-HSizzlin' Liz
511559511559NL51MXMA-AMad Max
422580422580N2580RF-KSix Shooter
484615484615NL55JL Betty Boop
484634472218NL151ESWZ-IBig Beautiful Doll
511636511636N11636CO NGStang Evil
473656414237NL2151DHO-WMoonbeam McSwine
473543 N151TPHP-PSweetie Face
473704 NL6168CFF-704ATC-Webb AFB
474745484745NL851DLLCrazy Horse
484753 NL251BPRJ-P 
463810463497N451BCTI-FAngel's Playmate
474839 NL50FSFF-839Su Su II (Luke AFB)
484786 N51BS5M-KLil Margaret
412840  LG-W 
484850  FF-850Su Su
472922472NL93TFL2-WScat VII
472934 XB-WVLVF-TShangri-La
472942414151NL5427VHO-MPetie 2nd
474950414812NL51DTHO-TSlender Tender and Tall
475007475007N3451DPH-PPaul I
474389 N64824B6-F 
  N86772C5-TMormom Mustang
 473NL151JBB7-Bald Eagle
  N51RH Ole Yeller
    Miss Marylin II
    Montana Miss
  NL51WTOONervouse Energy V
511582 NL5441V Spam Can
473210 CF-IKEWD-BMiracle Maker
413257 NL51DLCamo 

P-51D "Tender Slender & Tall" was one of several Mustangs at Kissimmee equipped with external fuel tanks. Civil Reg. is NL51DT

P-51K "Frenesi" bears the name of Artie Shaw's 1939 hit song from the big band era. Civil reg N357FG

TF-51 "Mad Max." The T prefix was applied to dual control Mustang conversions ordered shortly after WWII, as well as more recent conversions expressly for the warbird community. Civil reg N51MX

"Lil Margaret" was built as a P-51D, but was seen posing as an F-6D, the photo reconnaisance Mustang. Two camera ports can be seen aft of the wing on the port side of fuselage. Civil reg N51BS

CA-18 "Flying Dutchman" is a Mustang built by Australia's Commonwealth Aircraft. Civil reg NL51AB

Cavalier modified a small number of Mustangs in the early 1960s for sale to military operators, primarily in Central America and South America. Civil reg of this Florida-based Cavalier is NL51DL

Personal aircraft markings were common during the Mustang's service life. Nearly all warbird P-51s are painted with markings that represent WW II combat units, and many carry "nose art" that is either meaningful to the aircraft's present-day owner, or replicates that of a famous WW II Mustang. NL41749 is "Miss Marylin II."

This Mustang was restored to the configuration and markings of its post-war service as NACA 127.

The Stallion 51 flightline witnesses a space launch from the Cape Canaveral complex well to the east.

Closeup view of Slender Tender and Tall, showing external fuel tanks.

With exhaust popping, a Mustang turns final behind the propeller blades of a stablemate on the flightline

Val-Halla photographed on B&W film is seen on final in wistful markings showing what the aircraft may have looked like had it been stationed with the 57th FIS in Iceland during the early cold-war period"

It's pre-flight time on the taxyway, and crew, photographers, and fans wait in the hot Florida sun for the Merlin engines to start cranking over.

Chuck Yeager brings Glamorous Glen in one more time at Kissimmee