P-51 flies 'like a new one'

P-51 flies 'like a new one'

One of the RNZAF’s most experienced display pilots says flying a recently-restored P-51 Mustang on its first flight in nearly 70 years could not have gone better with the aircraft handling ‘like a new one’.

Squadron Leader Sean Perrett was at the controls of the former RNZAF P-51 NZ2423 which has been restored as part of the Biggin Hill Trust collection of aircraft owned by Brendon Deere but flown by RNZAF pilots.

Sean has been flying the Trust’s Spitfire since 2009 with numerous performances at New Zealand’s premier airshow, Warbirds Over Wanaka so why switch to the Mustang?  “When Brendon offered me the chance to fly the P-51 I felt it was too good an opportunity to miss.”

Sean first sat in the Mustang when it was in previous owner John Smith’s shed at Mapua and I have been closely involved with the restoration from day one.  “The aircraft must be one of the lowest-time Mustang’s in the world and there wouldn’t be many still flying with their original factory-fitted engine”.

So how did the first flight go? “The flight was only 24 minutes long and flown in the overhead at Ohakea airbase.  It was to check all of the engine temperatures and pressures were as expected before taking it outside of gliding range.  I also carried out some clean and configured stalls to confirm a safe landing speed.  The flight went really well and the aircraft handled like a new one,” says Sean.

Owner Brendon Deere says since that first flight they’ve flown another five flights for a total of 2.7 hours.  “Everything is working well and we now can’t wait to show her off at Wanaka,” says Brendon.

The Mustang joins the Spitfire and Grumman Avenger as part of the Biggin Hill Trust collection based at Ohakea.  The Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow next Easter will be the first chance the public has to see the P-51 display and it’s expected to be joined by the Spitfire and Avenger flying as the Air Force Heritage Flight of New Zealand. 

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