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P-51 Mustang

C to D


hen I was asked to write

about the differences
between the P-51C
Mustang and the considerably
more numerous D-models I
thought that a fun way of doing
it would be for you, the reader, to
pretend that its June 1944.
Although youve
just arrived in

Top right

FlyPasts resident
warbird pilot Dave Unwin
in the front seat of P-51C
Betty Jane.

An air-to-air view of
Betty Jane with Dave
Unwin in the rear seat.

44 FLYPAST September 2016

England expecting to be posted to

a P-47 Thunderbolt squadron, as
sometimes happened youve been
sent to a squadron that is equipped
with both C and D Mustangs. Ive
been detailed to brief you on the
differences between the two.
With only about four hours
in Mustangs in my logbook Im
not exactly an expert, but at least
I have flown both models and
theres many Mustang drivers
whove never flown a C. I was
introduced to the P-51
by Jim Harley,
who has

over 1,400 hours in both versions,

so I had a good teacher!

Canopies and guns

Lets take a look at a couple of ships

sitting out on the ramp. Even from
a distance its obvious which ones
which the P-51Ds big bubble
canopy is very different from the
multi-pane arrangement of a C
that wouldnt look out of place on a
Luftwaffe machine. It follows that
the field of view from a D is lot
better than that from a C.
Once youve flown a D you
really wont want to go back to
a C. Thats why most of the
old hands in this outfit
are flying

Dave Unwin highlights the

differences between the
Mustangs C- and D-models

P-51 Mustang

P-51Ds, and why as a newbie youll

almost certainly start off in a C.
Still, you never know your luck.
North American is really cranking
them out these days some say as
many as 40 a week and it wont be
long before all the Cs are retired.
Another reason most combat
pilots prefer the D is that its got
50% more firepower. They are
the same type in both 50-calibre
Colt-Browning M2 machine guns
mounted in the wings but where
the C has four, with 350 rounds
each for the inner guns and 280 for
the outboards, the D has six, with
380 rounds for each of the inboard
pair and 270 each for the outers.
Now, heres something you may
not know the wing bays on the D
are slightly deeper, which allows the
guns to be mounted vertically.
Overall this is good as theyre
less prone to jam, but
the thicker wing has
knocked a few
knots off the top

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Packard Merlins

The engines are essentially the

same; Rolls-Royce Merlin V-12s,
built under licence by Packard with
the USAAF designation V-1650. As
delivered from the factory, the C
uses a V-1650-3 (or Dash 3) and
the P-51D a Dash 7, but out here
in the field its not uncommon to
find a C fitted with a Dash 7 and
a D with a Dash 3 there is a war
on you know!
The Dash 3 produces up to
1,490hp (1,111kW) at 3,000rpm
and the Dash 7 an extra hundred.
These engines feature two-speed
superchargers and two points you
might want to bear in mind is that
the Merlin is

Once youve flown a D you really wont want to go back to a C.

Thats why most of the old hands in this outfit are flying P-51Ds,
and why as a newbie youll almost certainly start off in a C
and is a lot more powerful than the
air-cooled radial fitted to the T-6
Texan you trained on. So be careful
with that throttle particularly at
low airspeeds. You wouldnt bang
the stick around would you? Well,
dont bang the throttle around
Interestingly the Spitfire IXs flown
by the RAF boys are also powered
by Merlins, and the two types
have broadly similar performance,
handling and firepower. However,
clever engineering gives the Mustang
more than twice the internal fuel
capacity of a Spitfire, which greatly
increases its range.
Furthermore, as the P-51 was
the first production aircraft to be
fitted with a laminar flow aerofoil
section, the drag is greatly reduced,
extending the range still further. The
introduction of drop tanks means
that Mustangs can escort USAAF
B-17 Fortresses and B-24 Liberators
deep into Germany.


You mightve noticed that the

leading edge of the C-models fin
where it joins the fuselage is
very different to a

Ds. The latter design has a small

dorsal fillet, and there are opposing
points of view regarding its origin.
Some sources state that it was
installed to stiffen the tailplane,
while others claim that when
North American began fitting
bubble canopies to razorback
fuselages, company test pilots soon
encountered a problem reduced
directional stability. In extreme
cases, this lack of directional
stability could also produce the
dangerous condition of rudder
However, the bubble canopy
provided such a significant
improvement in visibility that
North American knew it had to be
retained. So company engineers
simply increased the keel area aft of
the centre of pressure by installing
the dorsal fillet problem solved!
Nevertheless, the C-model still
feels directionally more stable than a
D. If you look at both in profile its
obvious why theres a lot more keel
aft of the cockpit with a
C. Note that

the elevators and rudder are fabric

covered, but the ailerons are metal.
All the control surfaces are fitted
with pilot-operated trim tabs.

Landing gear

The D-models main undercarriage

is slightly different. The clam shell
actuator was moved from the front
of the gear well to the rear, the
up-locks were redesigned and
Im pretty sure the hydraulic
lines were placed differently as
a result. These changes added
an additional fillet forward
of each of the wheel wells,
creating a distinguishing
kink and increasing the
wing area slightly.
The main gear has a
reasonably wide track, as it
retracts inwards, and the
tailwheel also retracts.
The gear is actuated
hydraulically, as are the
brakes and large slotted

from below

North American P-51D

Mustang Crazy Horse is
operated by Stallion 51.
See page 56.
The distinctive bubble
canopy on the D-model.
P-51C Betty Jane
taxying - poor visibility
means that S-turning is
The cockpit of Betty

P-51 Mustang

Drag-cutting Meredith

North American P-51D

Mustang Slender, Tender
& Tall.
Below right

View of the control

panel from the rear seat
of P-51D N351DT Crazy
Horse 2.

Step inside

Lets take a look at the cockpit. I

think well use a C-model for this, as I
doubt youll get a D just yet. Its a bit
of climb up to the cockpit, but it isnt
too difficult, thanks to several welllocated handholds and kick-in steps.
OK, sit yourself down. The pedals
adjust and its very important that
youre comfortable Berlin and back
can be an eight-hour flight.
This C has the old N4 gunsight,
if youre lucky enough to be given a
D-model youll see that it has a K-14
gyro gun sight, which is a lot better.
The seat also feels a bit more upright
in the D, although its still very
comfortable. Youre also a bit closer to
the panel in the D and the glareshield
covers more of the panel than in the
The stick and tall throttle both
fall nicely to hand, while the prop
and mixture controls are mounted
adjacent to the throttle, with the trim
wheels, flap and undercarriage levers
underneath. There are a lot of circuit
breakers on the starboard side, but
luckily most of them are forward of
the elbow line.
As you may remember from some
of the other North American aircraft
youve flown such as the T-6
although at first glance it looks a bit
cluttered, closer inspection reveals that
it is actually reasonably well designed.
Various systems and sub-systems are
all laid out logically.
The fuel gauges (there are three
tanks) are mounted in the floor. This
feature has probably caused more than
a few accidents, because although

48 FLYPAST September 2016

An interesting feature of both the

P-51C and the P-51D is the infinitely
variable outlet for the cooling system.
This device played a pivotal role in the
Mustangs success, as it made use of a
phenomenon known as the Meredith
In very simple terms, by varying the
outlet of the cooling system and forcing excess air through it at high speed, substantial
back pressure builds up behind the radiator, and the additional thrust generated helps
offset the drag caused by the radiator.

Once youre over the numbers fully close

the throttle and hold the Mustang just
above the runway. Let the tail sink slightly,
then hold that attitude and let it land
mainwheels first...

the maximum internal fuel capacity

is 180 gallons (466 litres), the rate at
which it is consumed varies widely.
For example, with the power pulled
right back to the best economy setting
of 1,800rpm the fuel consumption
drops to around 36 gallons per hour.
However, at the full military power
setting of 3,000rpm and 61in of boost
it rockets to 155 gallons per hour.
Something else you might want to
remember is that the 85 US gallon
fuselage tank wasnt part of the
original design, but was added from
the C-model onwards. Its behind
the cockpit, and when its full, the
longitudinal stability is shall we say
relaxed, so always empty this tank first.
Drop tanks come in two sizes; 75
and 110 gallons. With a pair of the big
tanks, the range is over 2,000 miles
Unlike the elegant one-piece bubble
of the P-51D, the C-models is a
much more cumbersome affair. An
interlocking clam shell design, it
consists of four separate parts (not
counting the windscreen). To close the
two sections of the canopy, you first
raise the lower half, which is hinged to
the sill, into position, then lower the
top half into place and lock it.
Furthermore, with the clamshell
canopy closed up you cant even stick
your head out of the side. When
youre on the ground in the threepoint attitude the view forward is very
poor because of the long cowling, so
S-turning is essential.
Just like on a T-6, the tailwheel steers
through the rudder pedals up to about
6 either side if the stick is held back

past the neutral position. By pushing

the stick forwards, which unlocks
the tailwheel and allows it to castor,
differential braking can be used for
tighter turns.

General handling

Starting is pretty straightforward, just

make sure you dont over-prime the
motor, or youll get a stack fire. Dont
taxi too fast.
For take-off correct use of the rudder
trim is very important. The flaps are
usually left Up, although if runway
length is an issue, up to 20 can be
Bring the power in slowly. As you
pass 50 knots, gently pick up the
tailwheel and increase power. Keep it
straight. As youll discover, the noise
is phenomenal. With the wheels in
the wells, reduce power to 2,700rpm
and 46in of boost best climb is 170
knots and 3,000ft per minute.
First thing Id suggest is climb
straight up to at least 10,000ft (around
3,000m). Try a couple of stalls and
then acquaint yourself with the general
Remember we talked about the
laminar flow wing? Well, that and a
relatively high wing loading means
that although the stall is preceded by
some pre-stall buffet, when the wing
does quit flying it just quits! Theres
also a pretty abrupt wing drop, and
although itll start flying again once
the wing is unloaded, youll lose
several hundred feet in the process.
The primary controls are powerful
and although any out-of-trim
condition produces forces that are

quite high, they are easily trimmed

out. Once trimmed, its positively
stable about all three axes.
Harmony of control is good, with
the ailerons being the lightest and
the rudder the heaviest. Remember
though, the slip ball needs to be
monitored constantly and the rudder
trimmed often.
Both models fly pretty much the
same, although the D is marginally
less stable directionally. Try some loops
and rolls, but only while youre up
high. You need to use the rudder a lot;
this is very much a rudder airplane
and as youd expect from a propeller
that weighs hundreds of pounds and
has a diameter of almost 12ft, theres
no shortage of gyroscopic precession.
Rolls to the left are noticeably easier.
There are two things you really want
to bear in mind. Pulling hard into the
buffet is likely to make the Mustang
flick into an accelerated stall and
depart from controlled flight. Once
the nose is well below the horizon it
really accelerates and at high altitude
you can run into compressibility.


OK, now youve learnt how to fly the

thing, all you have to do is land it!
On the downwind leg set the prop
to 2,700rpm, drop 20 of flap, wait
until the speed bleeds back below 150
knots and then lower the gear.
On base leg stick another 10 of
flap down and bleed the speed back
to 130. As you turn onto final, flaps
to 40 and speed back to 120. You
want about 100 over the fence in
a C-model; in a D you can bring
it back to between 90 and 95 once
youve got some experience.
Once youre over the numbers
fully close the throttle and hold the
Mustang just above the runway. Let
the tail sink slightly, then hold that
attitude and let it land mainwheels
first, followed by the tailwheel.
Its neither a wheeler nor a threepointer, but is easily the best way to
consistently achieve good landings in
a P-51.
A full-on wheeler means a faster
touchdown speed, while a threepointer can be fraught due to the
stall characteristics of the laminar
flow wing. Putting the wheels on
the ground is very much a two-stage
affair. Its a bit like an old man sitting
down in a chair.
Well, thats it now you know as
much as me. If I were you, Id go
talk to the line chief about which
Mustangs yours. Then get some
practice in youre going to need it!


Stallion 51s Mustangs

are based in Kissimmee,

P-51 Mustang


Mustangs Marks


Depicting the changing profile of the P-51

Mustang over the years, artist Ted Williams
presents a series of colour side views

A-36 - Named the Apache was basically a P-51A with dive

brakes. Priscilla was flown by Lt. Bert Benear, 526th
Fighter Squadron, 86th FB, USAAF.

P-51A - Betty Lou served with the 68th Observation

Group, Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Italy, 1944.

P-51B - Ding Hao! was the personal mount of Maj James

Howard CO of the 356th Fighter Squadron, 354th Fighter
Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF. Based at Boxted, 1944.

P-51B - Jesse James served with the 374th Fighter

Squadron, 361st Fighter Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF, at
Bottisham, England 1944.

P-51B - West by Gawd Virginian was flown by Capt Robert

Punchy Powell of the 486th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter
Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF. The group was known as the Blue
Nosed Bastards from Bodney. Based at Bodney, England 1944.

P-51C - Berlin Express was flown by Lt Bill Overstreet of

the 363rd Fighter Squadron, 357th Fighter Group, 8th Air
Force, USAAF, Lieston, England 1944.

P-51D - Detroit Miss flown by Capt Urban Drew with the

375th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group (The Yellow
Jackets), 8th Air Force, USAAF. Capt Drew was the first pilot
to shoot down a Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter.

P-51D - Lois Honey was flown by Capt Douglas Benedict of

the 55th Fighter Squadron, 20th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force
USAAF stationed at Kingscliffe, England 1944.

F-6D - You Cawnt Miss It was a Photo Recon variant of the

P-51D flown by Lt Elmer Pankratz with the 160th Tactical
Reconnaissance Squadron, 363rd Tactical Reconnaissance
Group stationed at Beuvachain, Belgium, 1945.

P-51D - Miss America. With a paint scheme created to

emulate that of the USAF Thunderbirds, Miss America
has been an entrant at the Reno Air Races for many years.
This is but one of the many P-51 Mustangs that have been
resurrected and rejuvenated for air racing.

P-51F - The F variant was an attempt to create a

lightweight Mustang. The result was a fighter 1,600lbs
lighter than the P-51D. Although a small number were built
and extensively tested none were put into production.

P-51H - The H-model was the final production Mustang.

Although it had more power and many refinements it
was only mariginally faster than the P-51D. This aircraft
was assigned to Col Dave Schillings 56th Fighter Group
stationed at Selfridge Field, Michigan, 1946.

P-51K - Fragile But Agile- Flown by Lt Bert Lee of the

342nd Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group stationed at
San Marcelina Field, Philipines 1945.

Mustang IVA (P-51K) - Edmonton Special flown by Plt Off

John Mallandaine, No.442 Squadron, Royal Canadian Air

P-51D - Roto-Finish Special. This highly modified P-51D

with clipped wings and a cut down canopy was the winner
of the 1972 Unlimited Championship flown by Gunther Balz
at Reno, Nevada.

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Mustang III (P-51B) - RAF Squadron 259, Italy 1944. Note

the early application of a dorsal fin that appeared on later

P-51B - Shangri La was the personal mount of Capt Don Gentile

of the 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Group, 8th Air Force,
USAAF. Based at Debden, England, March 1944.

P-51D-5-NA - Cripes A Mighty was the personal mount of Maj

George Preddy of the 487th Fighter Squadron, 352nd Fighter
Group, 8th Air Force, USAAF stationed at Bodney, England 1944.

P-51D - Belligerent Bets flown by Maj Herschel Herky Green of

the 317th Fighter Squadron (Checkered Tail Clan), 325th Fighter
Group, 15th Air Force, USAAF, Lesina, Italy, April 1944.

P-51D-30-NA - Personal aircraft of USAF Col Dean Hess, CO

of Project Bout One, 51st Provisional Fighter Squadron,
Republic of Korea Air Force.

P-51D - Ole Yeller. This aircraft was personally owned and

operated by legendary air show pilot Bob Hoover. Called the
pilots pilot, Bob Hoover thrilled air ahow audiences for
many years with his revolutionary aerobatic routines.

P-51H - Too late for combat in World War Two, the H-model
was sent to serve in Air National Guard units in 1946. This
Mustang served with the Massachusetts Air National Guard
Unit at Logan Field, Boston, 1951.

P-51J - Another attempt at a designing a lighweight

Mustang powered with the lastest Allison V-1710-119. The
project was eventually dropped.


The NA-73 prototype. ALL BY TED WILLIAMS

Cavalier II - Cavalier Aircraft Corporation optimized existing
F-51Ds for export. The Cavalier II was designed for close air
support and counter-insurgency operations. This example was
part of a group sold to El Salavador in 1968.

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