Geoff Lilley shares his story of flying with Stallion 51 in our dual cockpit-dual control P-51 Mustang
with Mr. Mustang himself, Lee Lauderback.
I have wanted to fly a P51 since I was 10 years old after watching Cripes a Mighty 3rd fly round home in Christchurch. In those days it was known as the Mobil Mustang based in Charing Cross, Christchurch, NZ and owned by Ron Fechney & John McDonald. It now resides at Kermit Weeks airfield in the Fantasy of Flight hangar, Polk City, Florida. Seeing the P51 was instrumental in my decision to pursue a career in aviation, all be it in engineering and subsequently working for Air NZ for 42 years.
In 2014 I discovered the Stallion 51 website and planned a trip to Florida which was to include my first Crazy Horse 2 flight in January 2015 with John “Homer” Black. The flight was all I had expected plus a lot more. What an experience – I was speechless afterwards!!
That was it – I had the Mustang itch and wanted to go back for another go!! Sortie #2 with Steve “Maddog” Larmore happened in September 2016 in Crazy Horse 2. This was also planned in with a holiday to Florida and New York but the highlight was still the mustang. Another terrific flight to remember. Apart from the usual rolls, wingovers, Cuban 8 etc. the highlight was the barrel roll over the top of a towering cumulus cloud on the way home.
Shortly thereafter Covid 19 struck and I was forced into retirement. Interesting times but hopefully we are coming through the other side now and returning to some sort of normality.
This was key for me to plan another trip from New Zealand to fly the mustang again. As this was possibly my last trip (who knows?) to Kissimmee I asked Kelly Managhan if it was possible to fly with Lee Lauderback as I believe this doesn’t happen very often. On arrival at Stallion 51 I was advised that I was to fly with Lee. I felt privileged and hugely honoured to be flying with “Mr Mustang”!
Sortie #3 flying with Lee was to be amongst my favourites. We flew the usual wingovers, barrel & aileron rolls, Cuban 8s etc and the lead aircraft in a three mustang formation wingover – amazing!!
Lee and all of the Stallion 51 staff I met, did everything possible to ensure that I had the best time possible. They were, quite simply, the best days flying you could ever have!! I still have a huge grin on my face, thank you.
I highly recommend this experience to anyone as it is truly a one of a kind and thank you to the Stallion 51 team for keeping this history alive for everyone to enjoy.