05 June 2010

P-51 Flying Day

Paul Allen was complicit in the crime against humanity that was MS-DOS, and he has been atoning for it ever since. His most recent expiation is the Flying Heritage Collection, which restores and preserves historic warbirds.  It just happens to be based in my hometown.  Most impressively, it actually flies all of them that are airworthy!  As much as I love the Museum of Flight, it's a boneyard, albeit an impressive one. Ditto the Smithsonian. This is to the typical air museum as a zoo is to a natural history museum: it's alive.

There were about 1500 people there (my off-the-cuff estimate) and it was the first nice day we have had all year (notice the strange bluish color of the sky!) and it was quite an event. It's not often you get to see one of these beauties fly, let alone three.  I love the growl of the

You can see a more complete photo gallery here.

Fun facts: the red-tailed plane, 'Val-halla" is owned and operated by Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, whom I have met. Today his son Greg was flying.  The unsual name of the yellow-checkered-nose one, "Upupa Epops" was because the pilot was an amateur ornithologist.  There's a moving video of the pilot being reunited with his airplane after its restoration.  The original nickname of the striped P-51B, now named "Eva," was the much more poetic "Impatient Virgin."  Fittingly, the event was joined by a juvenile bald eagle.

I brought the two boys with me, and they were thrilled.  Son Number One was unusually quiet and mesmerized by the aircraft. Son Number Two was perched on my shoulders for a better view and breathlessly narrated the entire show in a high-pitched squeak, to the amusement of the crowd in our vicinity.

They're flying the Messerschmidt Bf-109E in two weeks.  Wonder if I'm off that day...


  1. Are these guys are what I saw from 405 yesterday morning? They were flying in formation like this but I just barely saw them before they disappeared behind the trees.


  2. Cool! I hadn't heard of the Flying Heritage Collection before. Though I wouldn't be too hard on the MoF. There's a lot of activity going on there, too. I think of it as being more active than the zoo, actually, since you get to see and hear the chatter of flights, but you don't actually see a lot of conservation or animal care happening at the zoo.

  3. It's not really a fair comparison between flying historical museums and static museums as the two have completely different purposes. Whereas the flying ones are there to demonstrate flightworthy historical aircraft, oftentimes at the expense of historical correctness, the static museums are there to preserve historical aircraft, oftentimes at the expense of flightworthiness.

    Rare is the plane that meets criteria for both correct and flightworthy, as making a historical aircraft into a flightworthy aircraft usually involves replacing enough bits and pieces that the argument can be made that it's no longer the same aircraft. In the case of a particularly famous airframe, which may have been one of hundreds produced but because of its particular role in history (think "Enola Gay"), replacing enough parts to make it flightworthy would compromise its historical nature. P-51s, such as these guys, which are significant for what they are but not necessarily their individual role in history (with no intended slight whatsoever to them or their pilots), are in a different category: truly beautiful to see in flight, and certainly worthy of flight, but preserved with the goal of flight in mind.

    BTW, I love reading your blog. My wife's a solo pediatrician, I'm an engineer, and we're struggling with the huge pile of crap being dropped out of DC (and our own legislature) which looks to be an assault on the middle-class (that's us) as well as the small businesses (that's us, too) as well as healthcare providers (sense a pattern?). I've written some articles on my own blog, but the level of understanding I have (and even she has) is clearly not quite as detailed as your own.

    Keep movin' the meat,

  4. The local P-40 Warhawk museum had an airshow this weekend as a fund raiser.

    My son(13) gave me a weird stare Friday night. As we were driving by the airport, a P-51 did a 50' pass over the freeway as we drove by. I was thrilled.

    He didn't see it. Poor kid

  5. I was up there late last year, visiting my children (who live right next to the airport), and I swore I saw a TBF Avengre take off & fly around a bit.
    I hadn't known of the Flying Heritage Collection, but will definitely get more info on my next trip.


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