Lee started flying airplanes at 14 years old in an old Schweizer 2-22 in DeLand, Florida. At that very airport, Kissimmee, just across the taxiway from where he obtained his pilot certificate in 1966, is the home of Stallion 51.
Lee believes that what he and his team do at Stallion 51 is very important: allowing the next generation and possibly the generation after that to not only operate these historic treasures but to do it in a well-trained environment. “I really don’t want these to end up in a museum somewhere, as a stuffed animal, but actually out flying and operational,” said Lee. “This will allow the new generation of kids, you might say, to not only just read about them in a history book, but actually see them and help them understand their importance to history. I’d like to think that we make a major contribution to keeping the airplanes operated professionally, safety along with good training, good maintenance, and projecting that forward so that when I retire, it’s going to continue. That’s very, very important to me. I think the airplane just has a magnetism that’ll never go away, but if it’s in a museum, it will lose its romance.”
Another one of the privileges Lee has had in his life along with flying airplanes like the P-51 was meeting and having a chance to fly with some of the icons that were the “Top Guns” of their day — R.A. “Bob” Hoover, C.E. “Bud” Anderson, and Robin Olds, to name just a few. “Some of the most memorable times I had in the Mustang were with Bob Hoover,” Lee said. “Him in the front, me in the back, and vice versa, and doing a full range of maneuvers in the P-51. Same thing with Robin Olds. Robin hadn’t flown a P-51 Mustang in 25 or 30 years, and I got to re-qualify him in our TF, dual cockpit, dual-controlled airplane Crazy Horse. It was like riding a bicycle for him. Now as I look back, Robin’s gone and Bob Hoover’s gone. I am extremely humbled that I had a chance to share in their lives and share the Mustang with those guys one last time. I get to fly the Mustang for fun in a sense and for training, but I haven’t had anyone yet, at least I’m aware of, take a shot at me. Those guys were flying these airplanes in combat, so when they got to come to Stallion 51, they were in a relaxed atmosphere and were able to go have fun with a P-51 Mustang.”
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