07/13/05 — Base to add vintage plane to inventory

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Base to add vintage plane to inventory

By Turner Walston
Published in News on July 13, 2005 1:45 PM

Seymour Johnson Air Force Base will soon add a prized piece of its history to the aircraft display at 4th Fighter Wing headquarters.

The P-51 Mustang, a standout in the air battles of World War II, will add to the line of aircraft that celebrate the Wing's storied history.

Representatives of the Wing had been looking for a Mustang for about five years, said Stuart Cox, deputy commander of the 4th Mission Support Group. A fully-restored P-51 was found at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Cox said the aircraft will come to Seymour Johnson when a suitable display can be built. Because the aircraft is fully restored, it will need to be displayed under a covering, he said.

The 4th Fighter Wing traces its history to a point before the U.S. entered the war. Eager to join the war, American volunteers flew for the British Royal Air Force in three squadrons. When the U.S. joined the Allied effort, the fliers formed the 4th Fighter Group for the Army Air Force, and began flying the Mustangs.

The Mustang featured six .50-caliber machine guns and could carry 10 5-inch rockets or 2,000 pounds of bombs. Its range was about 1,000 miles. At the time, each aircraft cost about $54,000 to build.

While flying the Mustang, the 4th set several records for air combat in the war. Destroying 1,016 aircraft, the 4th was the top fighter group in the European theater. The P-51 was employed by the 4th until the war ended in 1945.

"They controlled the skies over Europe," Cox said. He said the P-51 represented a leap forward in technology, which led to its success in World War II.

The 4th Fighter Group moved to Seymour Johnson in 1957, and was re-designated the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing in 1958.

Cox said there are few P-51s remaining in good condition.

"To be fortunate enough to have one, we're really lucky."

Currently displayed at 4th Fighter Wing Headquarters are five planes from the wing's history. They are the F-86E Sabre, F-100C Super Sabre, F-105 Thunderchief, F-4 Phantom II, and F-15E Strike Eagle.

The Mustang adds a major piece to the display, Cox said.

"It fits into Seymour Johnson's heritage," he said. "It's one of the premiere fighter aircraft."