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12 Reasons The P-51 Mustang Is History's Most Iconic Piston Fighter

I can't name a pilot that doesn't want to fly a P-51 Mustang.

1) The NA-73X (the Mustang prototype) was one of the first aircraft to have a fuselage lofted mathematically using conic sections; this resulted in the Mustangs's fuselage having smooth, low drag surfaces.

Wikimedia

2) During initial testing, a new radiator design was used that exploited the "Meredith Effect," in which heated air exited the radiator as a slight amount of jet thrust.

Airwolfhound

3) By the time of the first U.S. heavy bomber strike against Berlin in March 1944, the USAAF fielded about 175 P-51B/C Mustangs. Along with P-38 Lightnings, these P-51s provided sorely needed long-range, high-altitude escort for the U.S. bombing campaign against Germany.

Jim Raeder

4) The P-51D, was powered by the Packard V-1650-7, a license-built version of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 60 series two-stage two-speed supercharged engine, and armed with six .50 caliber M2 Browning machine guns. The most obvious change was a new "bubble-top" canopy that greatly improved the pilot's vision.

Jim Raeder

5) By May 8th, 1945, the 8th, 9th and 15th Air Force's P-51 pilots claimed 4,950 enemy aircraft shot down. That was about half of all USAAF claims in the European theater, the most claimed by any Allied fighter in air-to-air combat.

6) With the advent of the K-14 Gyro gunsight and the development of "Clobber Colleges" for the training of fighter pilots in fall 1944, the P-51 was a decisive element in Allied countermeasures against German Jagdverbandes, or bomber "hunting units."

Jim Raeder

7) The Mustang proved useful against the V-1s launched toward London. P-51B/Cs using 150 octane fuel were fast enough to catch the V-1 and operated in concert with shorter-range aircraft like advanced marks of the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Tempest.

Wikimedia

8) Initially intended as a "very long-range" escort fighter, the F-82, based on the P-51, was designed to escort Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers on missions exceeding 2,000 miles from the Solomons or Philippines to Tokyo. Those missions were beyond the range of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and conventional P-51 Mustangs.

Wikimedia

9) One of the highest honors accorded to the Mustang was its rating in 1944 by the Truman Senate War Investigating Committee as "the most aerodynamically perfect pursuit plane in existence."

Airwolfhound

10) The last United States military use of the P-51 was in 1968, when the U.S. Army employed a vintage P-51D as a chase aircraft for the Lockheed YAH-56 Cheyenne armed helicopter project.

Bill Larkins

11) P-51 Mustangs were used by El Salvador during the 1969 Soccer War against Honduras; it was the last time the P-51 was used in combat. One of them, FAS-404, was shot down by a F4U-5 flown by Captain Fernando Soto in the world's last aerial combat between piston engine fighters.

Jim Raeder

12) The Mustang was the first single-engine plane based in Britain to penetrate Germany, first to reach Berlin, and first to make a major-scale, all-fighter sweep specifically to hunt down the dwindling Luftwaffe.

Jim Raeder / Airliners.net

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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