The Collings Foundation has a formidable collection of airworthy warbirds, almost all of which actively participate at air shows, or tour the length and breadth of the country. They also have several rare birds currently under restoration, including a Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat, FM-2 Wildcat and Focke-Wulf Fw-190F-8. However, lost amongst the more exotic types under the knife, is a North American P-51D Mustang.
The aircraft in question is 44-74960, which rolled off the Inglewood production line in July, 1945; too late to see service in WWII. It stayed with the US military until they struck her from the registry at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, Nevada in January, 1958. After that, she passed through a series of civilian owners until one of them spirited her out of the country illegally to El Salvadorin 1969 for service with the Fuerza Aérea Salvadoreña (FAS), the Salvadoran Air Force. She apparently flew against Honduras during the 100 Hours War, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “The Soccer War”. Her known history runs cold at this point, but she re-surfaced again in 2007 with Dr. Mark Timken (who also once owned the Collings Foundation’s Fw-190F-8 for many years).
Dr. Timken decided to restore her as a fully-duel-controlled TF-51D variant, which is a big reason why the Collings Foundation pursued her purchase. The Mustang is currently under restoration with Gary Norville at American Aero Services in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. She is coming together quickly now, with the fuselage being ready for reattachment to the wings. Wiring and hydraulics installation are already under way as well, and Collings expect to have her flying again in the next year. She will then be available to join the collection’s Living History Flight Experience program where enthusiasts can buy time flying from the front cockpit with a qualified instructor in the back. Click HERE to learn more about these extraordinary flight opportunities.