It had long been rumoured that Peter Tiechman, owner of the Hangar 11 Collection based at North Weald, would repaint his P-51D into a new and authentic scheme. It was already known that the Mustang (serial 44-72035) had served with the 332nd Fighter Group, more famously known as The Tuskegee Airmen. To this day the aircraft still carries evidence of its wartime service in the form of patched bullet holes across the fuselage. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American military aviators and became commonly known as the ‘Red Tails’ after they started painting the tails and bands on the noses of their aircraft a striking red colour. Therefore it is somewhat fitting that the Mustang be returned to a scheme representative of the unit with which it once served.
To celebrate the reveal of the new scheme, Pete Tiechman enlisted the help of event organiser Neil Cave of TimeLine Events (TLE), who has previously delivered two nightshoots at Hangar 11 (Ed note – have a look at the authors review of one of the previous shoots – www.aeroresource.co.uk/events/hangar-11-nightshoot).
Taking place on June 4 at Hangar 11 itself, after parking up (which was by the Café, and well out the way of the photography) visitors were welcomed by Neil and walked over to the covered Mustang where we were greeted by the owner. Peter proceeded to talk in detail about the new scheme which represents a Mustang by the name of ‘Tall in the Saddle’. The Hangar 11 team worked closely with RAS Completions of Biggin Hill, along with 332nd Fighter Group historian Craig Huntly, in tracing the aircraft’s history and delivering an accurate scheme. During this process, it was discovered that one of the original pilots is still alive and was able to provide previously unpublished photographs of the machine that provided a great help to the project.
With the crowd suitably gathered and waiting in anticipation, it was time to lift the cover that had been hiding the new nose art. ‘Tall in the Saddle’ depicts a 99th Fighter Squadron/332nd Fighter Group Mustang that was flown by both Capt. Wendell Lucas and Lt.Col George Hardy – the latter a combat veteran who flew 21 sorties and was a recipient of the Air Medal which was awarded for meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight.
The Mustang was left sitting resplendent in its new scheme for a few minutes before Peter jumped in and began running through his pre-flight checks as he prepared to treat the gathered group to a small showing of the new scheme in the air. To provide us with several angles on the aircraft, Peter taxied out of his parking spot past the amassed photographers before following the cross runway to the main, rather than directly to the cross runway, which was a nice touch. Once Peter had passed us and stopped to begin his power checks, we made our way back the café to get the ‘light’ on our side. The flight was only a few minutes long consisting of a topside pass before a run and break to land but, despite it being a short flight, it was a great privilege to see the debut of a new scheme in the UK.
Upon landing Peter parked in the middle of the cross runway which provided ample photo opportunities to work with, along with the re-enactors provided by TLE. The scenario was continually changed under Neil’s instruction and the sun even came out for the remainder of the evening. With it gradually setting it was time for a wrap, so instead of towing the Mustang Peter started it back up and taxied back to his hangar creating some very interesting shots with the low light.
It was a very unique event to attend, made complete by the inclusion of a quick flight alongside the full photoshoot. It cannot be said that the event was cheap (£50) but it’s not every day an authentically schemed Mustang is revealed in the UK and, given the fact that is the normal cost of a TLE shoot, it doesn’t seem too bad all things considered.
Many thanks to Peter Tiechman, the team at Hangar 11 and TLE for making the unveiling of the new scheme a memorable event.