|Dutch Mustang airborne|
|Tuesday, 27 March 2012 00:00|
Following a seven-year restoration by the Dutch Early Birds Foundation at Lelystad in Holland, North American P-51D Mustang 44-74923/PH-JAT made its first flight on March 14. Belgian warbird pilot/restorer Frédéric Vormezeele was at the helm, having been engaged by the Foundation to make the final technical inspections, fly the test programme and train its P-51D pilots.
The volunteer 12-man restoration team was led by Ben Boddeman and Luuk Van Hooidonck. Frédéric Vormezeele comments: “They did an excellent job on the restoration, and we were able to carry out a successful first flight. However, the propeller did not perform as expected, which is now being investigated. There were no other snags.”
From 1984 to 1994 the Mustang was owned by air racing pilot Gary Levitz, who raced it at Reno as Miss Ashley. It was imported to Holland in the spring of 1995, but the rebuild did not begin until late 2004. The aircraft has been painted to represent a 364th Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, United States Army Air Force aircraft flown by ace Capt Robert P. Winks, complete with his personal nose art, Trusty Rusty.
Meanwhile, the financially troubled Aviodrome at Lelystad (see News, February 2012 Aeroplane), which closed in December 2011, is due to reopen at the end of April. Details of the rescue package had not been released at the time that this issue went to press.