Props & Ponies at the Heritage Flight Museum – Air Show Report

Sunrise over the Impatient Virgin. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
(photo by Joe Kunzler)
(photo by Joe Kunzler)

Heritage Flight Museum’s Props and Ponies 2016

by Joe A. Kunzler

The Heritage Flight Museum at historic Skagit Regional Airport near Burlington, Washington held their sixth annual Props & Ponies extravaganza on August 20th featuring the North American P-51 Mustang alongside its namesake automobile, the Ford Mustang sports car. The event brought auto and aviation enthusiasts together to celebrate, as the museum put it, “the car that changed the way we drive, and the aircraft that changed the course of a war”.

According to Robert A. Fria’s authoritative book about the Ford Mustang’s development, Mustang Genesis: The Creation of the Pony Car, the Ford Mustang actually has both the P-51 and the wild mustang horse to thank for its name. Fria quoted Ford Mustang designer John Najjar as follows, “R.H. Bob Maguire, my boss, and I were looking through a list of names for the car. I had been reading about the P-51 Mustang airplane and suggested the name Mustang in remembrance of the P-51, but Bob thought the name as associated with the airplane was too ‘airplaney’ and rejected that idea. I again suggested the same name Mustang, but this time with a horse association because it seemed more romantic. He agreed and we together selected that name right on the spot, and that’s how it got its name.”

HFM Volunteer Tina Shields' 1967 Blue Ford Mustang Heading Into HFM. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
HFM Volunteer Tina Shields’ 1967 Blue Ford Mustang Heading Into HFM. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

North American named their P-51 after the same wild horse, so the blend of Ford and North American Aviation Mustangs in a single show makes perfect sense in many respects.

Blue Angels Ford Mustang & Val-Halla. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Blue Angels Ford Mustang & Val-Halla. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

As Ford and North American P-51 Mustang fans planned their convergence upon the Heritage Flight Museum for Props & Ponies 2016, the author was privileged to have early access to the flight line to capture some unique photographs of the museum’s warbirds and the Historic Flight Foundation’s rare North American P-51B Mustang in the golden light just after dawn.

Sunrise over the Impatient Virgin. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Sunrise over the Impatient Virgin. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Sunrise on the Skyraider with the moon just above the propeller. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Sunrise on the Skyraider with the moon just above the propeller. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Sunrise over the Proud American. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Sunrise over The Proud American. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val Halla at sunrise. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val-Halla just after sunrise. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

However, despite the beauty of the sunrise shoot, the most intriguing photographic opportunity at Props & Ponies was the pairing of Ford Mustang automobiles with North American P-51 Mustang fighter planes. Vintage Ford Mustangs, as well as examples straight from the factory floor, were on view. There were even a few Ford Mustangs painted up with aviation-themed paint schemes, including one marked in tribute to the 352nd Fighter Group and another feting the US Navy’s Blue Angels.

Brendan Bayne in his Ford Mustang which he had painted to represent Lt.Col.John C Meyer's 352nd FG P-51 Mustang known as 'Petie 2nd. The well-known ace is credited with 24 aerial victories and the destruction of 13 enemy aircraft on the ground over his 200 or so combat missions in the European Theatre during WWII. ((photo by Joe Kunzler)
Brendan Bayne in his Ford Mustang which he had painted to represent Lt.Col.John C Meyer’s 352nd FG P-51 Mustang known as ‘Petie 2nd. The well-known ace is credited with 24 aerial victories and the destruction of 13 enemy aircraft on the ground over his 200 or so combat missions in the European Theatre during WWII. ((photo by Joe Kunzler)
A 2015 Ford Mustang painted as a tribute to the US Navy Blue Angels aerial demonstration team. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
A 2015 Ford Mustang painted as a tribute to the US Navy Blue Angels aerial demonstration team. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
'Petty 2nd' and Val-Halla. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
‘Petty 2nd’ and Val-Halla. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Morning Sun Hits Two Educational Mustangs. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Morning Sun Hits Two Educational Mustangs. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Inside the 1964.5 Ford Mustang Convertible....(photo by Joe Kunzler)
Inside the 1964.5 Ford Mustang Convertible….(photo by Joe Kunzler)
Cockpit of a 2016 Ford Mustang. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Cockpit of a 2016 Ford Mustang. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Just some of the fifty or so Ford Mustangs on display at Props & Ponies. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Just some of the hundred or so Ford Mustangs on display at Props & Ponies. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Historic Flight Foundation's P-51B 'Impatient Virgin'. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Historic Flight Foundation’s P-51B ‘Impatient Virgin’. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

On a sad note though, during the early hours of the show, the public first heard about the passing of Ed Maloney, the beloved and legendary founder of the Planes of Fame Air Museum. Maloney was a wonderful gentleman, and a giant figure in the warbird preservation movement since the early 1950s. His extraordinary vision and bold action saved literally hundreds of important airframes for future generations. The Heritage Flight Museum quickly organized and executed a five-ship T-6/SNJ/Harvard missing man formation out of respect for the late Mr. Maloney, and this touching tribute will ring out far beyond the event itself.

Missing man tribute to Ed Maloney. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Missing man tribute to Ed Maloney. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

After the missing man formation, the North American trainers paraded by in a thrilling series of low approaches down the runway.

A T-6D Texan on a low and fast flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
A T-6D Texan on a low and fast flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
A Canadian Harvard banking with Mt. Baker in the background, just before roaring down the runway on a low approach. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
A Canadian Harvard banking with Mt. Baker in the background, just before roaring down the runway on a low approach. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

Of course, the day would have more hard-core flying. In the early afternoon, two P-51 Mustangs took off for their performance. These two fighters comprised the Historic Flight Foundation’s P-51B 42-106638 “Impatient Virgin” and the Heritage Flight Museum’s P-51D 45-11525 “Val-Halla”. The HFF example, while essentially a new-build airframe, is based upon the mortal remains and identity of P-51B 42-106638, a D-Day combat veteran. The Heritage Flight Museum’s P-51D is painted up in markings reminiscent of a Mustang that Apollo 8 astronaut and museum founder, General Bill Anders, flew during US Air Force aerial sovereignty missions over Iceland in the early days of the Cold War.

Val-halla firing up for the final formation flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val-Halla firing up for the final formation flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Impatient Virgin getting under way. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Impatient Virgin getting under way. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The two Mustangs in tight formation. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The two Mustangs in tight formation. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The P-51s roaring past the assembled Ford Mustangs on the tarmac. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The P-51s roaring past the assembled Ford Mustangs on the tarmac. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val-Halla having some fun! (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val-Halla having some fun! (photo by Joe Kunzler)

After the two North American P-51 Mustangs finished their demonstration, brothers Greg and Alan Anders performed a re-enactment of the famous encounter between an Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi A6M ‘Zero’ and an American civilian Interstate Cadet that took place during the melee near Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941. The museum’s Interstate Cadet, registered NC37266, is the actual aircraft from that historic event. Cornelia Fort was flying with her flight school student aboard on that fateful day, and somehow managed to avoid being shot down. For more on this fascinating story, please see our previous article HERE.

Interstate Cadet doing aggressive banking while attempting to avoid the Zero. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The Interstate Cadet performing aggressive banking maneuvers while attempting to avoid the Zero. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The incoming 'Zero' replica. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The incoming ‘Zero’ replica. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The Zero attempting to intercept the Interstate Cadet. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The Zero attempting to intercept the Interstate Cadet. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

The festivities ended with the two P-51 Mustangs forming up with Heritage Flight Museum’s Douglas A-1 Skyraider for one last flypast. Air show visitors thrilled to the sound of powerful engines as the flight roared past the crowd line to close out the day.

Val-halla firing up for the final formation flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Val-halla firing up for the final formation flypast. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Impatient Virgin getting under way. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
Impatient Virgin getting under way. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

 

Val-halla coming in low and fast! (photo by Joe Kunzler)
A magnificent shot of Val-halla coming in low and fast! (photo by Joe Kunzler)
'Impatient Virgin' on the way through. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
‘Impatient Virgin’ on the way through. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The Skyraider flying low down the runway. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The Skyraider flying low down the runway. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The formation break up begins, with the Skyraider pealing off before landing. (photo by Joe Kunzler)
The formation break up begins, with the Skyraider pealing off before landing. (photo by Joe Kunzler)

After the three aircraft landed, the HFM display ended joyfully to the rumbling music of around a hundred Ford Mustangs departing Skagit Regional Airport. The Heritage Flight Museum’s goals for the day of providing “a unique opportunity to bring together folks who like cars, aircraft and history, and to support the mission of the Heritage Flight Museum – ‘Honor Veterans, Keep History Alive” came to a successful conclusion.


WarbirdsNews would like to thank Joe Kunzler for the hard work he put into this article, and capturing some lovely images from what must have been a marvelous day. The event was doubly special for Kunzler as Dr. Anne Will, his recently retired community college professor of American History, attended with some her family to enjoy a slice of the day’s festivities. Joe would like to dedicate this article to Dr.Will whom he credits with giving him such a strong foundation in historical analysis skills.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Guys
    Could you please let me know if there is a 2017 Props and Ponie show, I was at one a few yrs ago and loved it. Thank you
    Roger White Rock BC ?

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