Saving the Wild Mustangs - the Story Behind the Vintage Wings Mustang

 Mustang recovery title

Photo: via Dave Huddleston

After publishing the initial historical research results into the records acquired with the purchase of the Vintage Wings of Canada Mustang IV (9575) and after exhausting all other information sources it looked as if we would never be able to unearth the true story of how this beautiful aircraft was saved from the wreckers blade. Recently, however, we were contacted by Jerry Vernon, President of the Vancouver Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society. Vernon informed Vintage Wings that he had been researching and keeping records on all of the 130 postwar RCAF Mustangs for over 30 years.  What a blessing it was that we were able to find the one man in all the world who has been keeping track of the life of former RCAF 9575.
 
Jerry’s first exposure to North American Mustangs was as a 15-year-old Air Cadet. He described visiting Vancouver airport (YVR) on his bicycle to watch the first four RCAF Mustangs destined for 442 Squadron arrive from Burbank, California in November of 1950. Little did he know at the time, that he would later become an RCAF Auxiliary airman and eventually the keeper of their history. He served with the RCAF in the days when 442 and 443 Squadrons were still flying deHavilland Vampires and Mustangs and later served as the Squadron Engineering Officer (and historian) with 442 Squadron before the RCAF Auxiliary units at Vancouver were stood down in 1964. As a result of this lifelong involvement with Mustangs and thanks to his diligent work as an aviation historian, we can now provide a more complete history for the aircraft that once carried the RCAF serial number (s/n) 9575, and now flies as KH661, a former 442 Squadron Second World War fighter.

Mustang recovery title

The Vintage Wings of Canada Mustang IV (Bottom, Ex RCAF 9575) is painted in the markings of a 442 Squadron Mustang (top) operating in Europe at the end of the Second Wolrd War. This aircraft took part in the last combat mission of the war for the RCAF - supporting the taking back of the Channel Islands from their German occupiers just days after the cessation of hostilities.

Postwar RCAF Mustang Acquisition

The RCAF record cards for the 30 Mustangs acquired by the RCAF in 1947 state only that they were sourced from the Foreign Liquidation Corporation (FLC), the American equivalent of the Canadian War Assets Corp. and later Crown Assets Disposal Corporation (CADC). During Jerry’s research of the RCAF's Mustang files at the Canadian National Archives, he found an invoice covering 29 Mustangs delivered to the RCAF from Middletown, PA, confirming FLC as the source.
 
Other RCAF record cards indicate that the initial 1950-51 deliveries of Mustangs came from Pacific Aeromotive Corp., of Burbank, CA. At first, each squadron received only 4 aircraft, which were ferried to Canada via Great Falls, Montana. USAF ferry pilots flew them as far as Great Falls and then RCAF ferry pilots took over and flew them to their Canadian destinations. Those assigned for delivery to 442 (Aux) Squadron in Vancouver were delayed for a while until weather over the Rockies permitted their final leg from Calgary into Vancouver.
 
Later deliveries of aircraft from the order for 100 additional Mustangs came from Texas Engineering Co.(TEMCO), Dallas, TX, and the balance from LosAngeles, CA and Glendale, CA. The latter two locations may have been USAF storage depots.
 
From the research conducted by Jerry and Mike Henniger of Vintage Wings on the USAF record card acquired with the Vintage Wings Mustang, it was determined that it had spent a short time in storage at the North American factory at Inglewood, CA, until the USAF was ready to take delivery.  It was then ferried across to the Newark, NJ, Port of Embarkation.  There is a bit of a “mystery” as to whether it sat there in storage for some time, or was shipped to the UK and returned to North America when the Second World War ended. USAF records indicate that it was stored at Olmsted AFB at Middletown, PA prior to being transferred to RCAF service on April 18, 1947.
 
Thirty Mustangs were delivered to Canada in 1947, at a cost of $ 10,000 each. The order also included 30 spare engines and one-year supply of spares and tools. The program was intended to equip and operate 417(FR) Squadron at Rivers, Manitoba for a period of five years. This allowed for a squadron strength of 8 aircraft, plus 2 for training and 20 for attrition and spares. Minimum spares were included in the purchase which meant that later several aircraft had to be broken up to provide airframe spares. No overhaul spares were ordered, as it was assumed that time-expired or damaged aircraft would simply be replaced from the attrition stock and the total service life of the type would not exceed 5 years. Upon delivery, 28 aircraft went to RCAF Station Gimli, Manitoba, one went to RCAF Station Trenton for pilot training and one went to CEPE at RCAF Station Rockcliffe to assist in the writing of RCAF Engineering Orders and Pilots' Operating Instructions. Later, in addition to the 417 Squadron requirements, 7 were assigned to the Air Armament School at Trenton, 2 to the Central Flying School and the CEPE Mustang was used, with fatal results, at the National Research Council, Arnprior Detachment for high-speed dive testing of wing test sections for the proposed CF-100 jet fighter.

RCAF 9575 was taken on RCAF strength on June 7, 1947 and put into Stored Reserve at Gimli. In October of 1949, it went to MacDonald Brothers Aircraft at Winnipeg for overhaul, modification and weatherization, and it was then issued to 403(Aux) Squadron at Calgary on June 16, 1952. Apart from a short period on loan to Air Defence Command for a 1952 Summer Camp at RCAF Station Uplands, 9575 spent its entire RCAF active flying life with 403(Aux) Squadron.

Vintage Wings Mustang – RCAF s/n 9575

This section provides a complete history of Mustang s/n 9575 as researched by Jerry Vernon from the time it was loaded onto the trailer at the former BCATP training field at Carberry, Manitoba to the present time.
 
The RCAF inventory card for s/n 9575 shows it had been in Stored Reserve, Ready Reserve and APDAL (Aircraft Pending Disposal at Location) Storage since September 3, 1954. It was SOS (Struck off Strength) on 20 Sept. 1960 and placed with Crown Assets Disposal Corp. (CADC). RCAF s/n 9575 was one of the surplus aircraft without an engine or prop, but otherwise seems to have been intact. Vernon’s opinion is that 9575 may have simply run out of engine hours or airframe hours in 1954 and was put into storage as RCAF still had close to 40 new or zero-time-since-overhaul condition Mustangs in storage as replacement aircraft. CADC was soon able to sell 9575 to civilians, James H. Defuria and Fred J. Ritts, of Syracuse, NY.
 
James De Furia, at times with Fred J. Ritts, bought 71 surplus RCAF Mustangs, most of them complete, but a few of them in "as is, where is" condition, with some damage from accidents and some without engines. Another 8 aircraft from 420 Squadron of London, ON were sold to Stinson Field Aircraft, San Antonio, TX and 8 more from Vancouver’s 443 Squadron were sold to Trans-Florida Aviation, Sarasota, FL. Trans-Florida Aviation would later be known as Cavalier Aircraft, the refurbishing and building Mustangs for export to Third World countries as late as 1968.
 
When Jim DeFuria bought the 71 ex-RCAF Mustangs, the FAA gave him two blocks of registration numbers, N63xxT and N65xxD. De Furia was to advise the FAA of the aircraft s/n’s when and if one of these registrations was applied to an aircraft.
 
De Furia's initial plan for his Mustangs was pretty wild to say the least - to set up a small "mercenary air force" based on one or more war-surplus American aircraft carriers, for use in Latin America and other hot spots. Needless to say, the US State Department took a dim view of this and consequently De Furia sold a few aircraft individually to private buyers and several simply seemed to have disappeared. For example, Jerry has several photos of former Hamilton Auxiliary squadron Mustangs in storage at the Syracuse NY airport, still in the remnants of their RCAF markings but with no known or visible US registrations. These aircraft may have been shipped to Israel, Central America or just been dismantled to provide spares. Perhaps we will never know.
 
At this time, De Furia made a deal with Jim Morton of Aero Enterprises to sell the remaining aircraft to Aero on consignment. That is, they would pay him when they found a buyer. Some of them were ferried to Elkhart, IN singly or in groups. Ed Fleming, from Calgary,  would make one serviceable and then deliver it, after a phone call, when an individual airframe was sold.

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The following group of four photos was acquired from Lieutenant General Dave Huddleston, who was one of 4 RCAF student pilots from Portage la Prairie who decided to visit the derelict Mustangs at Carberry. Dave Huddleston was a Flying Officer then and the other 3 were Flight Cadets, all training on T-33s.  Huddleston was later to become the head of Air Command. According to another of these four men, Bob Reid, the date would have been February or March of 1962. The person under the nose of the “City of Winnipeg” Mustang is Keith Inkster, now retired from the British Columbia Institute of Technology and living in the Vancouver area.  Keith is with RCAF 9562 (later N6308T then probably scrapped).   The two aircraft behind are RCAF 9575 (see painted-over 403 Squadron Crest) and RCAF 9560 (see below).  Photo: via Dave Huddleston

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In the previous photo we saw RCAF 9560 on the cold winter ramp of Carberry along with 9575. Today she flies in one of the most well known paint schemes of all Mustangs - that of Glamorous Glen III, the personal Second World War Mustang of Chuck Yeager, the first person to break the sound barrier. Photo: Larry Montgomery via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Before she was Glamorous Glen III, RCAF 9560 was Dixie, and owned by David Tallichet. Photo: Curtis Fowles via www.mustangsmustangs.com

In the case of s/n 9575, Vernon believes that it was stored uncovered at RCAF Station Carberry, Manitoba from 1954 to 1961, when ownership passed to Aero Enterprises of Elkhart, IN, USA. His theory is based on the RCAF inventory card which recorded it stored Reserve (03 Sep 54), Ready Reserve(20 Apr 56) and APDAL (19 Jul 56).  All of the Mustangs stored at Carberry, Fort Macleod and Calgary simply show “Lincoln Park” on the RCAF cards. He has no reason to think that it would have been stored anywhere else other than Calgary and then moved later to Carberry, which was a sub-unit of No. 10 Repair Depot, Lincoln Park, Calgary. 
 
In June 1962, Aero Enterprises sent their engineer, Chuck Mitchell, and some helpers up to Carberry and, along with Ed Fleming and helper Ed Paluch, they were to make the serviceable aircraft they had purchased airworthy, and ferry them to Elkhart. In addition, they dismantled, flatbedded and trucked the unserviceable aircraft back home to Indiana. Many of these aircraft had been stripped of instruments, radios and other equipment, so this was not a trivial chore. RCAF s/n 9575 was one of these aircraft that were stripped and trucked from Carberry across the border.

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F/O Dave Huddleston sitting on top of the canopy of Mustang 9598 (in the remains of 443 (Aux) Squadron. markings).  Aircraft behind are RCAF 9560 (no engine)(later CF-PIO and now N3333E) and RCAF 9567(with engine)(N6337T and later N167MD #2/N51N/ C-FBAU #1) (destroyed in a crash when owned by Dennis Bradley of Canadian Warplane Heritage). Photo via Dave Huddleston

Mustang recovery

After Carberry, 9567 flew as the famous Tangerine and then it went to Hamilton, Ontario and was was repainted in 424 "City of Hamilton" squadron RCAF markings, with the codes BA-U applied. This was reflected in the Canadian registration it then wore, CF-BAU. The Mustang was virtually destroyed in a landing accident on a small country road after suffering an engine failure in 1984. Bradley and his passenger survived, but the Mustang was consumed by a post crash fire.   Photo: Alex Christie

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Flight Cadet Bob Hill, now a retired Air Canada pilot living in Penticton, BC. is sitting in the cockpit of RCAF 9563 (N6344T, later C-FBAU #2, now N51YS) and the next aircraft is RCAF 9564. Photo via Dave Huddleston

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A great photo of 9563 as she and other Carberry Mustangs are ferried through Winnipeg on 29 July, 1962.  Photo: Norm Malayney via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Ex RCAF 9563 as Old Boy - the markings she wore in the early 90s. Photo: The Great Caz Caswell via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Ex RCAF 9563 in her present day scheme as Scat VI - N51YS. Photo: Curtis Fowles via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Then-cadet pilot Bob Reid leans on a Mustang’s wingtip at Carberry in 1962.  Bob is a retired Transport Canada pilot and also lives in the Vancouver area. He and Jerry Vernon are both Directors and Past Presidents of the Air Force Officers’ Association.  The next aircraft behind is RCAF 9564 (Which would become N335 - the famous air racer from Reno - She still flies today.). Photo via Dave Huddleston

Mustang recovery

Ex RCAF 9564 also in the photo with Bob Reid (above) became a famous Reno air racer N335 and enjoyed many freaky paint schemes over the years - checkers being the favourite. Photo: Gerald Liang via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Did we say freaky? You bet! - N335 with matching power cart on the ramp at Reno.  Photo: Ron Olson via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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RCAF 9564 ended her racing career with a much nicer scheme and a hot little coupé top. Photo: Emil Strasser via www.mustangsmustangs.com

Since all Mustangs at the far end of the lineup at Carberry were all engine-less and/or wingless, they had to be trucked out of Carberry by road rather than being ferried out by air.
 
The late Ed Fleming, who worked on 9575 at Carberry and others in Alberta, told Jerry that he had walked along the line of 15 aircraft at Carberry, including those without engines and the hulks without wings, with a red spray bomb and sprayed registrations on ALL of them. These rough red sprayed-on registrations can be seen in some of the Carberry photos. What this means to Jerry is that RCAF 9575 is one of the "missing" registrations in that block, and there is no official paperwork tie-in to it. Long ago, the FAA denied all knowledge of any of the registration numbers in the De Furia or Aero Enterprises Mustang number blocks that had never had an aircraft officially tied to them.
 
The following two photos were shot by Ed Paluch, a local Carberry resident hired to help with the removal of the Mustangs from Carberry and provide to Jerry by Norm Malayney of Winnipeg about thirty years ago. They show RCAF 9575 being loaded, by Aero Enterprises employees and readied for shipment to Elkhart, some time in 1962.

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The stocky individual standing in front of the fuselage above is Chuck Mitchell. Chuck was the AME from Aero Enterprises who worked with the late Ed Fleming, from Calgary, and some locals, to ready the Mustangs for ferrying or trucking out of Carberry. In addition to 9575, the other aircraft on this trailer is RCAF 9568 (N6340T), which has been restored and since 1980 is flying at Duxford with The Fighter Collection as "Candyman"/"Moose". It appears that there is a wing between the two fuselages on this trailer, so it may have been either the wing from 9268 or 9575!! Vernon suspects that loose wings and fuselages were simply “mixed and matched” at Elkhart, with no regard to which Mustang they belonged to!!  RCAF 9568 was soon sold to Dr. Ernest M. Beehler, West Covina, CA, on 30 July 1962, so it was soon on its way to flying again. This aircraft has been in UK since 1980. Jerry reports having several photos of a second wing, quite possibly the other wing belonging to the two Mustangs on the flatbed, being loaded, with some difficulty, inside a semi-trailer for the trip South.  The salvage crew had rigged up a block and tackle inside the front of the semi-trailer and winched the wings inside. Photo via Jerry Vernon

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Early on, RCAF 9568 was Candy Man, a Reno Air Racer in the 1970s - her first identity and purpose, post-RCAF.  Photo: Sid Roberts Collection via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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RCAF 9568 has had many lives since resting beside our Mustang on the frozen ramp of Carberry, Manitoba back in 1962. She has spent the last 30 years in the UK with one of her identities being Candyman. Photo: Fergal Goodman, via www.mustangsmustangs.com

Mustang recovery

RCAF 9568 also wore the well-known Moose identity for several years. Photo: Peter Liander, via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Today, Ex RCAF 9568 is Ferocious Frankie and flies in the UK.  Photo: Jenny Coffey via www.mustangsmustangs.com

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Chuck Mitchell, of Aero Enterprises with 9575 and 9568 – Smiling with satisfaction at the job done!. Four decades later, his work that day would result two of the finest Mustangs still flying. Photo via Jerry Vernon

When the Aero Enterprises crew first attempted to move these aircraft in 1961, Ed Fleming, a Canadian pilot and AME crashed and cartwheeled RCAF 9557(N6342T) on 24 Aug 1961 in a farmer's field near Carberry when the engine failed during a test flight. Luckily, he was tightly belted in. When the engine was salvaged for parts the next year, it was found that RCAF mechanics had taken the heads off all engines and placed bags of silica gel desiccant inside the heads, as part of the long term storage arrangement. As this was unknown to the salvage crews another one or two Merlin engined Mustangs had been destroyed at Carberry but fortunately during ground run-up tests. A lesson learned!!
 
So seven or eight the aircraft were made airworthy and flown to the U. S., while the balance of them were dismantled and taken by road, either because they had no engines or props or because the engine had been damaged during ground testing.
 
At this time, the wings of RCAF 9568 and 9575 were separated from their respective fuselages. It is not known if 9568 ever got its own wing back but 9575 never did. Vernon’s research indicate that 9575 was stored in Aero Enterprise's storage barn at LaPorte, IN, along with several other Mustangs. Since 9575 ended up as just a fuselage hulk in the storage barn, and was eventually scrapped, the original Wing could have gone on to any other Mustang at Elkhart.  When he was rebuilding 9575, Richard Ransopher had three damaged wings from other identified Mustangs. Later in the year 9575 was sold as scrap to Leonard Tanner of North Cranby, CT.
 
Ex-RCAF Mustang 9568 fared much better than 9575. Jerry’s research indicates that when both aircraft arrived in the USA, 9575 was placed in Aero Enterprise's storage barn at LaPorte, Indiana, along with several other non-airworthy Mustang hulks.
 
In 1964, when Aero Enterprises fell onto hard times and went out of business, they advised the FAA that they had scrapped several of these aircraft hulks that had previously been assigned registrations, and it is presumed that the same thing happened to 9575. However, 9575 and at least one or two others have turned up over the years.

Vernon was told that the wing package with 9575 was later sold to a John Marlin, who used it to build a Martin Baker M.B.5 replica in California, using many Mustang parts. This leaves the question of where Bob Baker, a later owner of the 9575 fuselage found a wing for this aircraft that would become the restored Mustang, Miss Oklahoma.
 
When Richard Ransopher owned RCAF 9575 in the mid-70s, he told Vernon that late warbird collector Len Tanner had found 9575 in a Decatur, IL scrap yard late in 1962. This coincides with information in the aircraft record files when acquired by Vintage Wings. This was probably the same time and place that he found ex-RCAF 9580 as a derelict fuselage, which was later restored and became Art Vance's Mustang "Million Dollar Baby".  Art found the radio call sign tag "9580" on the instrument panel of the fuselage hulk that he bought for this project.

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RCAF 9580, once a derelict fuselage, flew for years as Million Dollar Baby, but now she flies as Speedball Alice.  Sadly, long time owner and pilot of Speedball Alice, Art Vance was killed when the Grumman F6F Hellcat he was flying hit power lines in Tennessee. Vance, 64 from Sonoma Ca, was ferrying the Planes of Fame aircraft to a show in Arkansas. Vance was the unlimited check pilot for the Reno Air Races and will be greatly missed. Now his son Dan Vance does the flying. Photo: Curtis Fowles via www.mustangsmustangs.com
 
Note: There are many mysterious date discrepancies between the various documents associated with many of the Mustangs purchased by De Furia. For example: between the RCAF SOS date, the date on the FAA Bill of Sale and the date of the CADC signature. This is partly because some of the documents were not produced until years in arrears, when the FAA needed them for registration. This was not a problem with RCAF 9575, as the owners did not initially register the aircraft with the FAA. It is not known what Bob Baker, a later owner of 9575, had to do to in order to produce a documented "chain of ownership" for the FAA after he had restored the aircraft. By this time, several of the people involved with the aircraft were long-since dead and the aircraft had changed ownership several times not as an aircraft but as scrap metal! In the 1960's the FAA demanded paperwork documenting the aircraft back to when the RCAF had sold them.
 
The next owners of 9575 were the Whittington Bros., who were air racers followed by aerobatic pilot Budd Davisson, a former columnist for FLYING magazine.
 
Following Davisson’s ownership, 9575 passed into the hands of a Fred Webster, then a Dr. Steve Schulke and finally the late Duane Egli of Fabens, TX. Egli was another warbird restorer, who was involved with Mustangs and Hawker Hurricanes.
 
Eventually, in 1977, Richard Ransopher, who appears to have been the first person to make an attempt at restoring this aircraft, bought this very dismantled and picked-over partial Mustang fuselage for $3,000 including an assorted package of damaged wings from N1335 (ex-RCAF 9597), N6175C and N5478V. Nothing forward of the firewall remained of 9575 nor was there a rear fuselage or tail section. The Ransopher restoration project was initially located in Grapevine, TX, but in the early to mid 1980s it was moved to Kernersville, NC.

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The fuselage was stripped by Ransopher right down to the longerons and stringers and it is assumed that the entire aircraft was completely re-skinned. Photo via Jerry Vernon

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The upside down fuselage of 9575 is being stripped of its outer skin in Richard Ransopher's back yard in Grapevine, Texas. Photo: Frank Strickler

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A close-up of one of the fuselage skin panels after removal from the hulk of 9575 in Ransopher's back yard showing the 403 City of Calgary Squadron red wolf's head crest crudely painted over by Carberry maintenance people after the aircraft was struck from the RCAF list.  This surplus panel was promised to Jerry Vernon by Richard Ransopher, but the gift never materialized. Photo: Frank Strickler

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For just $3,000, Ransopher purchased the fuselage of 9576 plus an assortment of damaged wings from from N1335 (ex-RCAF 9597), N6175C and N5478V. Poor Mrs. Ransopher! Photo: Frank Strickler

Perhaps tiring of such a daunting restoration effort, Richard Ransopher sold the aircraft in 1998 to Robert S. Baker of Alva, OK and restoration (fuselage and wing restoration) work continued at Warbirds Inc. of Oklahoma City. In 1999 the project was moved to Alva, OK for detailing and completion work by Bob Baker. Finally registered as N351D and named "Miss Oklahoma", Skip Holm, the famous warbird pilot made the first post- restoration test flight on 17 June 2000. In the same year it was unveiled at the EAA convention at Oshkosh, WI and in 2001 it won the "Best P-51" award at Oshkosh.

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Oklahoma Miss meets the extended family - the members of the Canadian Harvard Aerobatic Team. Photo: John Brennan

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Oklahoma Miss (Ex RCAF 9575) looking very sexy on the ramp of her new home at the Gatineau Airport - the hangar VWC rented as our new facility was being built. Photo: John Brennan

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Starting to get comfortable in her new home, RCAF 9575 in the markings of Oklahoma Miss participates in Air Show Ottawa at the Carp, Ontario airport. Sitting in the cockpit is former Vintage Wings of Canada AME Earl Chapman. Photo: Alain Rioux

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A beautiful shot of Mike Potter flying Oklahoma Miss over Ottawa just before she left to be painted in her new and final paint scheme - one that tells a Canadian story.  Oklahoma Miss was voted best Mustang at Oshkosh a couple of years before, and some folks were shocked that the beautiful polished aluminum (some say it was the best in the Mustang world) was to be covered in drab camouflage.  Photo: Mike Henniger

Michael Potter of Ottawa, Ont. acquired the aircraft 29 April, 2005 which was registered as "CF-VPM". A new paint scheme was applied in 2006 to show the aircraft in the wartime RCAF P-51D colours of 442 Squadron as Mustang  Y2-C. The ex-RCAF Mustang 9575 had finally come home to Canada

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Ex RCAF 9575 thunders down a valley near her new home at Gatineau, Quebec. Once again she is performing a valuable mission, telling the story of Canada's flying heroes of the Second World War as a 442 Squadron Mustang IV. Photo John McQuarrie

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Another beautiful shot of 9575 in the markings of 442 Sqaudron Y2-C over Southern Ontario. Photo: Eric Dumigan

From the extensive research of Jerry Vernon on RAF Mustang record cards from WW II, they revealed that 442 (F) Sqn. operated 21 Mk. IV Mustangs (both P-51D and P-51K models) in the UK in the period from March 1945, until August when the squadron was stood down.  Several of these aircraft were destroyed either in operations over Germany in April 1945 or in post-war flying in the UK before stand-down. The maximum squadron strength at any given time was 18 Mustangs.
 
Although other squadrons used the Mk. I and III operationally, 442 was the only RCAF squadron converted to the Mustang Mk. IV before the war ended.  If the war had lasted a bit longer, Mustangs would likely have been allocated to the RCAF for use in the home war effort - Western Hemisphere Operations, replacing the Hurricanes and Kittyhawks.
 
The original Mustang Y2-C was taken on strength by the RAF on 09 April 1945, issued to 442 (F) Sqn. on 23 April 1945, reassigned to 19 (F) Sqn. on 02 Aug. 1945, and struck off strength (SOS) on 15 January 1946. The war was over and unfortunately hundreds of these beautiful aircraft were scrapped. As the RAF had made a decision to standardize on British-type aircraft postwar, lend-lease aircraft that were not purchased by the user country had to be either returned to the U. S. Government or scrapped.

By Jerry Vernon and Don MacNeil


A few years after first publishing this article, Vintage Wings received this story (July 10, 2014) from pilot David Thompson who very nearly became one of Aero Enterprise's Mustang ferry pilots... with only a 167 hours flying time! Luckily he got some good advice from his flying instructor:

I am Capt. David A. Thompson, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot. I have been in love with the P-51 Mustang since I was three years old. While growing up, I never thought of being anything else other than a pilot. Fortunately I was able to accomplish that with long hard hours of work and diligent study!

Recently I was researching the archives of the Vintage Wings of Canada for information about the Carberry P-51 Mustangs!

I previously had, I believe it was an Air Classics magazine from back in about 1992, which had an article in it about the Carberry  P-51 Mustangs which were being sold for $550.00.

Since I loved the Mustang, I would frequent Mr. Jim Morton's airfield in Elkhart, Indiana. I believe it was called Aero Enterprises, Midway, Elkhart . It was located along highway 33 in Elkhart, Indiana. I believe it is now a Wal-Mart store. I have been told there are P-51 parts buried there, but that is only a rumor. I lived in Buchanan, Michigan, about 30 km. from Elkhart, Indiana at the time. I was 18 years green at that time!!

One day Jim Morton asked me if I had any tail wheel flying experience. I told him that all my time up to then, a total of 167 flight hours, had been all tail-wheel flight time.

He then asked me if I would be willing to go to Carberry, Canada and fly 6 P-51 Mustangs to Elkhart, Indiana for him. He said he would give me one of the airplanes if I would do that for him. I told him I would check with my instructor, a Mr. Lee Roskey, who had been a P-47 Thunderbolt test pilot at the Evansville, Indiana manufacturing plant. Mr. Roskey said to me that would be a good way for me to get killed and I then declined Jim Morton's offer!! I subsequently learned later that several of those P-51's had crashed.

About 2007 or 2008 as an Airbus A-320 test and ferry pilot I had the opportunity to be laying over for an extended period of time in Winnipeg, Canada. I decided to rent a car and drive to Carberry to see what it was like! When I arrived in Carberry, I could not locate the airfield, so my co-pilot and I stopped at a nice little breakfast café for breakfast.

When we finished breakfast and were walking out of the restaurant, I noticed a gentleman seated with three ladies who were  having a cup of coffee. I decided to stop and ask the gentleman if he knew where the airport was and if he knew anything about the P-51 Mustangs which were there in the 1960-1961 period. He kinda chuckled and smiled and said, " I worked on those airplanes!" He then introduced himself and lo and behold it was Ed Paluch!!

We talked for a while and then agreed to meet later that afternoon. He then took my co-pilot and I on a tour of the airfield. It was not recognizable as an airfield as it had all been converted to manufacturing facilities!!

As a captain with Northwest Airlines and with an intense interest in P-51 Mustangs, it was natural for me to eventually meet up with a Capt. Chuck Doyle. Ed Paluch told me he knew Chuck Doyle. Chuck Doyle, I believe, was the pilot who eventually flew the Mustangs to Elkhart for Jim Morton. Chuck Doyle did get one of the P-51 Mustangs from Carberry as his own. He regularly  flew it out of his  1,650' grass field in Apple Valley, a suburb of Minneapolis.

I kept in touch with Chuck Doyle up until his death several years ago. I get e-mail messages and text messages from Ed Paluch, usually two or three times a day.

I am looking forward to going to Carberry to see him again!! I have promised Ed Paluch a ride in my Thunder Mustang!!


David Thompson

Mustang recovery 9

The original Y2-C Mustang, second in line, sits with her 442 sqaudron mates at RAF Hunsdon prior to VE Day.

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