In a New York state of mind


Mark La Ciura

While driving down a street in the valley I live in, I heard the sound of a very powerful propeller driven aircraft that I didn't see but knew it sounded like music to my ears. Vintage V-12 horse power for sure. I made a run to our Tehachapi airport and a North American P-51 D WWII fighter plane was sitting in front of the airport office. She was nude, all metal, not a bit of paint on her, just the tips of the 4 bladed props with yellow showing so people would see them when the aircraft is parked. I was looking at one of the finest looking P-51s I have ever seen. She was just gorgeous with a pretty blue sky and clouds behind this beautiful lady. I found out later her original name was "Sonny Boy", so maybe a tomboy. Lots of the pilots named their aircraft after girlfriends, wives and family like the famous WWII pilot Chuck Yeager did and he called his P-51 "Glamorous Glennis".

I found out the owners just got through with a 10-year labor-of-love restoration and everything looked brand new. Just a fantastic sight to see as the War Bird was on the way to New York City, just stopping by to talk to Mike Nixon who had restored this vintage V-12 engine. Nixon owns a local Tehachapi aircraft motor shop.

What I saw was P-51D Mustang "Survivor" (serial No. 44-12858, aircraft "N" No. is N858F). "Survivor" because I believe they started with just a fuselage, not a complete aircraft? I did do a bit of searching on the internet to find this out and this aircraft may have never flown in WWII, going into storage in May 1946. It may have not been completed at that time and I am just guessing on this as well. Any information on this P51D would be nice to know. We have so many people with an aviation background locally.

Back in the 1950s you could buy a complete flying P-51 for $3,000 to $5,000 and now this world class historical fighter is priceless, in the 3 million dollar range. My dad told me this, along with P T Boats from WWII, which is what he wanted. My dad was a WWII Navy veteran and this is where I got my first ideas that just because something is old, we can still make use of and learn from these historical or not-so-historical things. The internet shows "Survivor's" first flight after a 10-year restoration was Jan. 15, 2018 by the famous war bird pilot Steve Hinton. Here is just the bit of information I could find on the internet on "Sonny Boy".

So driving by our airport, you never know what will be taxiing around and taking flights up here at 4,000 feet.

"Aircraft Data from Google"

1945: built, North American Aviation P-51D-20NT 44-12858.

1945: May 09, BOC, RAAF A68-643.

1946: May, stored, RAAF Parkes.

1946: Sep., stored, Deniliquin NSW.

1948: Nov., stored, Tocumwal NSW.

1953: Feb. 23, surplus, American Aeronautics Corp, Burbank, Calif., fuselage only.

1953: N4695V, reg, American Aeronautics Corp, Burbank, Calif.

2007: Jul 03, N858F, Champion Air Group LLC.

2007: N858F, Vista Charters LLC, Edmonds WA, restoration as a TF-51D.

2011: Aug, Restoration continues, fuselage systems being installed.

2018: Jan 15, N858F, first flight, Steve Hinton. Congrats to Dave Teeters and the crew at Airmotive Specialties in Salinas, Calif.


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