Monday, June 16, 2014

Vintage warbird soars at New Garden Flying Field (N57), Toughkenamon, Pennsylvania

Military aviation history buffs had a Fathers’ Day treat waiting for them at the New Garden Flying Field.

Sitting on the tarmac, with it’s bright yellow nose and four bladed prop glistening in the bright, mid-June sun, sat a P-51 Mustang, one of the most iconic fighter aircraft of WWII.

While the plane on hand was built during the war, it never saw combat. But it was modified to include a passenger. The originally installed auxiliary gas tank had been removed and a second seat put in behind the pilot. Enthusiasts took advantage by getting rides in the plane, much to their delight.

Bruce Roberts, an aircraft mechanic at New Garden was all grins when he alighted from the craft.

“It was a blast,” he said.

Roberts previously went up in another fighter, the P-38 Lightening, but this was more enjoyable for him. He actually had the opportunity to operate the craft from the backseat controls.

Carl Spirito, whose father flew B-17s during the war, is a private pilot from Philadelphia. He called his ride “fantastic.”

“I’ve got more than 3,700 hours in the air and this was my best flight. I’ve flown about 30 different aircraft, [but] this is an honest airplane,” Spirito said.

He explained that the plane responds immediately to whatever the pilot does to the controls. With many other craft, he said, there’s a delay of up to two or three seconds, not so with the Mustang.

“This is a real nice airplane. If I had the money, I’d try to buy it,” he added.

The day was made possible through the efforts of sponsor Jim Rudolph and aircraft owner Dave Murphy and his son Mark who was the pilot.

Rudolph said he likes making people’s dreams come true. For some though, “this wasn’t even on their bucket list,’ he said. “I wanted them to experience flying something that has more than 1,000 horse-power.”

Rudolph became fascinated with aircraft as an 18-year-old naval reservist assigned to submarine duty in 1951. When the Korean War broke out, he requested a transfer to aviation. He got the transfer, but was not allowed to attend flight school in Pensacola because he was already married. Instead, he worked on the ground with aircraft ordnance.

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