In addition to adding some minor upgrades to the wing’s facility, the members of the Commemorative Air Force‘s Dixie Wing have been hard at work, working on their warbirds. In preparing their North American P-51D Mustang, “Red Nose” and their Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless for the long flight north into the heart of Yankee Country, Reading, Pennsylvania for the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum‘s 23rd Annual World War II Weekend from which we recently reported.
While air show attendees more often than not just get to see these gleaming warbirds (hopefully) performing flawlessly, exhibiting their aerial prowess above the show field, behind the scenes it takes a lot of work to keep these aged high-performance machines in top condition. While this time around the Dauntless could get by with just the usual safety checks, maintenance and adjustments, which in and of itself is fairly exhaustive, The P-51’s clutch drive was slipping. Getting to it seemed next to impossible.
With the departure for Reading imminent, the removal and reinstallation of the Packard-Built Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650-7 engine was more involved a project than would have been possible in the time available. Fortunately the Dixie Wing was able to call in help from as far afield as Michigan and California, bringing in Mustang experts who had the necessary knowhow to get the supercharger assembly removed, so we could get to the problem with the engine still in the airframe, no small feat considering the tight confines of Red Nose’s nose and quite a timesaver compared to removing and reinstalling the engine!
Over the course of a single weekend everything was removed fixed and refitted and thankfully was no longer making any strange noises. The rest of the Mustang’s maintenance and safety checks were performed and “Red Nose” and the Dauntless were able to make it to the show in Reading, wowing the crowds, most particularly the 38 lucky show-goers who were taken up for flight experiences in the two veteran warbirds, all blissfully unaware how much work it really takes to keep ’em flying.