This collectable model P-51C Mustang represents the ultimate in long-range fighter development in World War II, the aircraft that was finally able to escort bombers from bases in England to targets deep in Germany. Painted as Kitten flown by Tuskeegee Airman Charles McGee in 1944, this 1/24-scale model P-51C Mustang makes a great pilot gift, or a present for any veteran, aviation enthusiast or history buff.
This iconic American aircraft of World War II, which also served in combat in Korea, actually began as a British aircraft. Designed and flown in just 178 days in response to a British proposal for a fighter-bomber. British officials wanted North American Aviation to build the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk under license, but NAA President James �Dutch� Kindelburger persuaded them that his company could build a new, better design in less time.
The NA-73 project featured two innovations: an efficient laminar-flow wing developed by the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, and a radiator design that used exiting hot air to provide a modicum of additional thrust. The XP-51 showed good performance at low altitudes, and the British government placed orders for several hundred of the fighters. In 1942, the Army Air Forces placed an order for 320 P-51As, as well as orders for a dive bomber variant, the A-36.
Also in 1942, the Mustang received the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine and the results were magic. High altitude performance exceeded expectations, with the Merlin-powered Mustang topping 440 mph in tests.
The Mustang was taking off and with the addition of long-range tanks, the P-51 proved to be the answer to the Army Air Forces need for a fighter with the range to accompany bombers all the way to their targets deep in Germany.
The definitive version of the Mustang, the P-51D, featured a bubble canopy, six .50-caliber machine guns, and a range of 1,650 miles. Top speed was 437 mph.
McGhee, who named his P-51C Mustang with his pet name for his wife, Frances, flew with the 302nd Foghter Squadron in Europe, then later flew the F-51D Kitten II in combat in Korea. McGhee, who retired in 1973, also flew almost 200 missions in Vietnam in RF-4C Phantoms.
A flying P-51D is under restoration by the Southern Minnesota Wing of the Commemorative Air Force. The CAFs Red Tail Project P-51C will honor the service and sacrifices of the Tuskeegee Airmen.
The Mustang continued in service following World War II, operating as a fighter-bomber in Korea. The Mustang is a popular airframe for air racing, and restored versions are a common sight at air shows.