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"Faster than the average jackrabbit..."
This year, at the Reno 2000 National Championship Air Races, my dream of taking flight in a P51 Mustang became a memory that I will not soon forget. However, this wasn't just a P51, but rather, Race #51 and 1999 Bronze Class Winner: Moonbeam McSwine!
I have long been an admirer of the North American P51 Mustang and have often dreamed of what it would be like to fly in the classic World War II fighter. As a kid I built numerous models of the plane and held virtual dogfights in my parent's living room, strafing the family dog and conducting tactical bombing runs on the other toys. Even as a grown 'kid', I have flown almost every computer flight sim featuring the Mustang... But it just isn't the same.
The first time I saw Vlado Lenoch's P51D, Moonbeam McSwine, was at the 1996 Reno Air Races. Although Vlado wasn't racing the beautiful machine at the time, Moonbeam stood majestically in the pits surrounded by the top racers in world. With the blue nose and polish body meticulously maintained, no other plane could match it's beauty. In 1999, Vlado proved that the plane wasn't just a looker, but that it could hold it's own around the pylons as well, by taking the checkered flag in Sunday's Unlimited Bronze Class race. Vlado returned to Reno in 2000, this time with the bird in stock trim, but fell just short of the 300 mph minimum qualifying speed by less than 2 mph.
Wayne Sagar, my editor at AAFO.com, introduced me to Vlado and set the stage for one of the most memorable experiences in my life. While some people prefer the off-tempo drumming of the old radials, nothing quite compares to the deep whistling scream of a P51 at high speed....especially from inside the cockpit! Sincere thanks to Vlado and his crew for turning this dream into a fond memory.