North American Aviation P-51D Mustang

North American Aviation P-51D Mustang

North American Aviation P-51D Mustang

The P-51 Mustang was arguably the most important piston-engine aircraft of World War II. With its legendary Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, it was fast (437mph) and had long legs (1,150nm range on internal tanks). With six .50cal. machine guns, the Mustang was heavily armed and its one-inch armor plate behind pilot seat provided ample protection to the pilot. One of the most important design features was the wing airfoil with its laminar flow design - the first successful use of this type of wing design in a mass-produced aircraft. It allowed the Mustang to maneuver at high speed without fear of a dangerous wingtip stall and contributed to the long range capability of the P-51.

Prior to the P-51 entering combat service in late 1943, American bombers flying out of England could expect an escort from US fighters to the border of Germany where the fighters had to turn back as their fuel ran low, leaving bombers without protection. With its extensive range, the Mustang allowed the Allies a continuous fighter escort of bombers from their bases all the way to Germany and back. This effectively turned the tide in the air war in Europe.

About the Museum's Aircraft
The Museum's P-51, serial no. 44-73683, was built in Inglewood, California, and delivered to the USAAF on 31 March 1945. It was shipped to the Eighth Air Force in England just as the war in Europe came to a close and never saw combat. Returned to the US, it went on to serve with numerous squadrons in the Air National Guard. In May 1958, the aircraft was sold to Nicaragua and purchased by Michael Carroll of Long Beach, California in 1965. In 1992, the P-51 was traded by then-owner Paul Hunt of Nashville, Tennessee, to the Museum for a North American T-28.

Now on exhibit in the Museum's World War II Gallery, the P-51 is painted in the markings of the 332nd Fighter Group - the famed Tuskegee Airmen that flew from Italy with the Fifteenth Air Force.

rounded bottom