Wednesday, May 19, 2021

there is a lot of respect for any WW2 airplane, but add a story, or two? Those get that plane a hell of a lot more respect

in the spring of 1944, when U.S. Army Air Forces pilot Bill Overstreet, flying with the legendary 357th Fighter Squadron, locked on to a Messerschmitt Bf 109 over Paris and was so tenacious in his pursuit that when the German fighter tried to shake him by diving under the arch of the Eiffel Tower, Overstreet dove right behind him—and shot him down on the other side as the two aircraft climbed away. Overstreet became a hero of the French.

65 years later:

The nose-art decal—a dragon— caught the eye of 16-year-old model builder Jared Muszala.

Three years later, in 2009, his dad’s restoration business began work on a P-51B Mustang, and, knowing Overstreet’s story, Jared convinced the owner, Max Chapman, that the newly assembled pieces and parts combined with the remains of a P-51B that had crashed in a training accident in England, should become a reincarnation of the Berlin Express.

So Jared called Bill Overstreet, who had recently received the French Legion of Honor, to ask permission.

“I was a little nervous, but he was really cool,” Jared says. “When I told him about the project, he said ‘It’s not going to take five years, is it?’ ” Overstreet was 87. 

Jared was a little worried about that too; he wanted to get Overstreet’s signature on the airframe. So he shipped a freshly painted gun bay door from Idaho Falls to Overstreet’s home in Roanoke, Virginia; Overstreet signed it and sent it back. 

He died in January 2014, at 92, 11 months before the restored Mustang’s first flight, which took place a little more than five years after Jared made the phone call.

And in 2015 the restored Mustang did something amazing, it won both trophies at the National Aviation Heritage Invitational hosted at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, as well as best in category.

the most authentic restoration in 2015’s military category plus the Grand Champion title and the People’s Choice award. No plane has ever done that before in the 16 year history of the event

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