A North American P-51 Mustang will go on display at the Pima Air & Space Museum, 6000 E. Valencia Road, starting this Friday, June 4, inside Hangar 4.
The airplane, considered the best American fighter of World War II, used a Rolls Royce Merlin engine. It was originally developed for the British Royal Air Force in 1940.
The P-51D features a cut down rear fuselage and a bubble canopy to improve rearward visibility. It has six .50 caliber machine guns in the wings in place of the four guns in most earlier versions.
The Mustang remained in military service in the United States Air Force until 1957 and the last
combat Mustang was retired by the Dominican Air Force in 1984. Mustangs remain popular in civilian hands with nearly 100 flying in private hands and fetching prices of over $2 million.
This airplane, called the “Bad Angel” has a wingspan of 37 feet. It is 32 feet long, and weighs 16,000 pounds. The markings are from the 3rd Air Commando Group, 4th Fighter Squadron, from Laoag Airfield, Luzon, Phillipines, 1945.
The Bad Angel is representative of the Mustang flown by Lt. Louis E. Curdes, who was one of only three American fighter pilots to score kills against all three of the major Axis powers –Germany, Italy and Japan– in World War II. He was assigned to the 3rd Air Commando Group, 4th Fighter Squadron in Luzon, Philippines. Although this Mustang is not the exact plane Lt. Curdes flew, the plane has been painted in the colors and markings of his plane, and the details of his military heroism will be told with the history of the P-51.
The Pima Air & Space Museum houses 300 aircraft on 80 acres. The collection includes an SR-71 spy plane, President Kennedy’s Air Force One, a space guppy plane from NASA, and numerous historic aircraft and helicopters. The museum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, visit pimaair.org.