Once in a Lifetime: Flying Aerobatics in a P-51 Mustang!
by Chris M. Front
One of my “bucket list” items was to fly a P-51 Mustang. I saved up for several years to make that dream come true as a 60th birthday gift to myself. I arranged to fly with Lee Lauderback at Stallion 51, based at Kissimmee Gateway Airport (ISM) on President’s Day, 17 FEB 2020. My wife Jessica and I travelled to Orlando, Florida where we built a long weekend getaway around my Stallion 51 experience. Stallion 51 has a very professional and thorough P-51 Mustang training operation. The fortunate individuals who have the wealth and good fortune to own and fly P-51s are most often trained by Lee and his team of instructors at Stallion 51. Lee did the re-currency training for WWII aces like COL (ret.) Clarence “Bud” Anderson and BGEN (ret.) Chuck Yeager. Lee is known in warbird circles as “Mr. Mustang” because he has more time flying Mustangs than anybody else on the planet – it’s hard to imagine, but he has well over 10,000 hours in Mustangs!
The thing that makes Stallion 51 especially well-suited for training is that they have two of only a very few TF-51 Mustangs. As you may know, with the P-51D model of Mustang, it is common to remove the 85 gallon centerline fuel tank and old WWII radios that were behind the pilot’s seat in order to add a jumpseat for a lucky passenger. Some conversions even add a stick and rudder pedals for the backseater. Unlike those common P-51D conversions, the TF-51 conversion has a complete set of controls and instruments in the rear seat, making it particularly well-suited for training. Stallion 51’s two TF-51s are called Crazy Horse and Crazy Horse2.
Upon arrival to Stallion 51, I happen to run into Lee Lauderback as I enter and immediately recognize him from photos I’ve seen. I introduce myself and he gives me a friendly greeting, then leads me upstairs. The Stallion 51 offices are on the second floor of their hangar, and the hallway to the briefing room is lined with windows looking out over the airplanes in the hangar. As a warbird fanatic, I am impressed with the scene below me. Lee explains that Crazy Horse is in another hangar receiving routine maintenance. Crazy Horse2 is in the foreground, receiving a final polishing. Arrayed around the hangar’s sides and back are an L-39 Albatross, a P-51D Mustang, and two AT-6 Texans. Everything is pristine. Wow!
Read Chris’s full first-hand account of his flight with photos by clicking the link below.