Texas Flying Legends Museum’s P-51C Mustang ‘Lopes Hope 3rd’ Flies!

Lope’s Hope 3rd starts up, with the chase plane for the test flight in the background (Dakota Kid/ Long Island Kid). (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Texas Flying Legends Museum's newest pony in the stable, Lope's Hope 3rd about to take to the air again following a fabulous restoration by AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Texas Flying Legends Museum’s newest pony in the stable, Lope’s Hope 3rd, about to take to the air for the first time following a fabulous restoration by AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)

As many of our readers will be well be aware, we have been following the restoration of Texas Flying Legends Museum’s North American P-51C Mustang at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji, Minnesota for some time now. We received the marvelous news of her completion and first flight last week, and thought you would like to see the photo-essay of that momentous moment put together by AirCorps Aviation’s Chuck Cravens. This will of course be followed up by an in-depth feature on the restoration with superlative air-to-air photographs from Scott Slocum in our sister publication, Warbird Digest. So without further ado…


Texas Flying Legends Museum’s Lope’s Hope 3rd Takes to the Air.

By Chuck Cravens

On Monday October 16, 2017, P-51C Lope’s Hope 3rd flew for the first time since 1946. The flight took place in Bemidji, Minnesota after an intensive three- year restoration by AirCorps Aviation.  This is the third, highly authentic Mustang restoration that AirCorps has completed since 2011.

Lope’s Hope 3rd is pulled from the hangar. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Lope’s Hope 3rd emerging from the hangar. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)

This restoration is based upon P-51C 43-24907, whereas the original Lope’s Hope 3rd was 42-103585. Texas Flying Legends Museum chose to restore this Mustang in First Lieutenant Donald S. Lopez’s color scheme to honor his service in WWII, as a post WWII test pilot in the early jets, and his contributions to the aviation community as Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Warren Pietsch, chief pilot for Texas Flying Legends, settles into the cockpit.(photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Warren Pietsch, chief pilot for Texas Flying Legends, settles into the cockpit. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
Lope’s Hope 3rd starts up, with the chase plane for the test flight in the background (Dakota Kid/ Long Island Kid). (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Lope’s Hope 3rd starts up, with the chase plane for the test flight in the background (Dakota Kid/ Long Island Kid). (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
Warren taxis Lope’s Hope 3rd to a tie down area for a run up. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Warren taxis Lope’s Hope 3rd to a tie down area for a run up. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
The P-51C is strapped down for a full power engine run. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
The P-51C is strapped down for a full power engine run. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
As twilight descended, it was finally time for what everyone at AirCorps Aviation and Texas Flying Legends Museum had been waiting for since restoration began in earnest on October 1st, 2014. It took three years and about two weeks before this P-51C-10NT flew again for the first time. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
As twilight descended, it was finally time for what everyone at AirCorps Aviation and Texas Flying Legends Museum had been waiting for since restoration began in earnest on October 1st, 2014. It took three years and about two weeks before this P-51C-10NT flew again for the first time. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
Lope’s Hope 3rd climbs out on her first takeoff in seventy-one years. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
Lope’s Hope 3rd climbs out on her first takeoff in seventy-one years. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)
Lopes Hope 3rd in close formation with the P-51D chase plane for the test flight, TFLM's Dakota Kid. (photo by Randy Ruttger via AirCorps Aviation)
Lopes Hope 3rd in close formation with the P-51D chase plane for the test flight, TFLM’s Dakota Kid II. (photo by Randy Ruttger via AirCorps Aviation)
A very pleased AirCorps Aviation crew poses in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd after a squawk-free test flight. (photo by John LaTourelle via AirCorps Aviation)
A very pleased AirCorps Aviation crew poses in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd after a squawk-free test flight. (photo by John LaTourelle for AirCorps Aviation)

Many thanks indeed to Chuck Cravens, AirCorps Aviation and the Texas Flying Legends Museum for providing us this fabulous update, as well as to the photographers, John LaTourelle and Randy Ruttger, for providing such beautiful images. We wish Lopes Hope 3rd much success in the skies, and look forwards to seeing her on the air show circuit in the near future!

And of course… stay tuned for a full article about this beautiful aircraft in an upcoming issue of Warbird Digest!

15 Comments

  1. Good job!!! P51 of ANY model is a gorgeous aircraft, and you guys rock for bringing this one back to the skies…THANKS!!!

  2. Don Lopez was my ideal. He was my professor of thermodynamics at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1960-61. We could always get him off the subject by asking him to tell the story of his fourth kill, a Japanese fighter, when he was a member of 14th Air Force (Flying Tigers).

    “I was shooting and flying straight at him; he was flying straight head-on and shooting at me. I hid behind the inst panel. He chickened out and rolled away”. Collision. Lope lost wingtip; recovered and got credit for kill.
    Zero lost whole wing and the fight.

    I went on to fly fighters: F-100, F-102, F-104, F-4, Hawker Hunter, English
    Electric Lightning F6. Lope was my ideal. Worked w/ him later at Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

    Charlie Neel, Col, USAF, Ret.
    Colorado Springs

  3. Don Lopez is also the author of my all time favorite book: “Into the Teeth of the Tiger”, about his early days and WW2 experience.

  4. I first met Don in late 1980 at a Smithsonian weekend, subsequent to that I went on several tours with Walter Boyne and Don to England. Don acted as our guide, teacher, historian and good friend. Whenever I visited the Museum he would always make time for a brief chat and a “How are things going ?” A first class gentleman…..

    Nice job, a well deserved honor.

  5. I had a student, years ago, introduced him to model aviation in my middle school elective. He eventually became an aeronautical engineer (RPI) and works with Aircorps Aviation and others as a designated FAA inspector — for all those new parts– and he arranged for a quick visit with the folks at Aircorps Aviation on our way back north & east during an RV trip in 2015.

    Met Eric Hokum and some of the guys at Aircorps; they had just completed landing gear replacement on Little Horse, a -D Mustang, I believe. I was drooling the entire time Eric showed me around! It must have been Lope’s Hope III I saw on a fuselage jig that day, full of Clecos and a few aluminum sheets, on a very skeletal frame.

    A great group of guys who do fantastic work, and now they’ve added another restoration to their list of accomplishments — keep it up! (When are you going to start that P-47?)

    • Thanks very much for writing in Walt. AirCorps are already well underway with their P-47D as well. We reported on her history already HERE, and will be providing a restoration update very soon.

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