This really was a dream come true for me, and one of the best experiences of my life! Everyone i met at Stallion 51 made me and my family very welcome starting from Julia at the front desk to Greg in the hanger. I met my instructor 'Mad Dog' Steve, and right away we got on like we have been friends for years.
But first let me clarify, i'm not a pilot. In fact i'm a bit of a nervous flyer. But I just love Mustangs, and have flown many Radio controlled P-51's over the years, so i had to put my nerves aside and fly a real one for my 40th birthday.
I have only flown as an airline passenger straight and level, so when Steve briefed me that I would take control just after take off and perform several high G aerobatic manouvers just like my RC planes, I started to think this guy really was Mad like his call sign suggests. I fly model planes, I'm not Chuck Yeager!! But Steve had come across several RC pilots before, and knew if i could fly a model, the real one would be easy. He had more confidence in me than i had in myself. A true Jedi Master!
So i walk into the spotless hanger, and i see one of the most beautiful sights in Orlando.... Crazy Horse 2 (Princess Jasmine in Disneyworld comes a close second!!) This plane is just gleaming, and polished up to a chrome mirror finish!
I climb up and strap in, as Steve tells me the the emergency bail out procedure and parachute drills. This really increased my heart rate, and i feel my ice cool image slipping away from me. But Steve puts a big smile back on my face when he starts her up and i hear that beautiful Merlin engine right in front of me, and i feel some British pride!
Steve lets me slalom taxi out to the runway, and after a few good turns, im a bit late on the rudder pedal, and almost put the thing on the grass! Ooops! Steves take off is silky smooth and once the plane is trimmed in flight, it flies hands off by itself straight and level. In fact it flew so smooth, i had to occasionally wiggle the stick just to make sure i was flying it. Steve then put me to work, and told me how to stall the aircraft. I slowed it down, raised the nose, felt the buffet and then the wing suddenly dropped and i was looking at the ground with my heart in my mouth. I recovered and my confidence grew as we barrel rolled and looped 8,000 feet above Florida. I was still gritting my teeth with the G force, and i initially had a nervous death grip on the stick, but my body slowly relaxed and i flew it just as i would a RC model.
After i did the break away turn over the runway and set up the landing approach, i thought my fun was over, as i thought Steve would re take control of the plane, but instead he just lowered the flaps and talked me down till i had landed it on the centerline!! Amazing!! I flew and landed a Mustang!! Im still smiling about it now! Steve said i would love this plane, and he was right.
My only regret is i didnt fly for longer, but i had promised my kids the whole Disney theme park experience, and i was on a tight budget.
I have a new found respect for the young men that fought and died in these planes. How they flew them to the limit to survive in combat is beyond me (I was straining just pulling out of a gentle loop!)
I will always remember this experience my whole life.
Thanks again to everyone at Stallion 51!!