50 Incredible Facts About the P-51 Mustang

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What a legend! The P-51 Mustang is you grandfather’s favorite aircraft, and one of ours, too. It played a crucial role in the second world war, and it performed beautifully. Sleek, efficient, inexpensive and downright effective towards its enemies – the P-51 Mustang is a legend of its time and continues to fly today. The next photos and facts you’re going to see will both educate and entertain you. Enjoy!

P-51-civilian pilot and 355th Fighter Wing vice commander, prepare to fly
Airman 1st Class Christopher Drzazgowski, U.S. Air Force

It cost $50,000 to produce a P-51 in 1944. Adjusted for inflation, that equals about $673,000 today. But for what was arguably the best all-around fighter in World War II, the price was worth the outcome. The P-51 Mustang was one of the last piston-engine fighters to be manufactured and will go down as one of the best United States aerial attack weapons ever. Here are 50 Incredible Facts About the P-51 Mustang.

P-51-P-51 Mustang, with North American Aviation tail logo
Joe Loong

The P-51 had a maximum speed of 438 miles per hour at level flight, and cranked out 1490 horsepower at takeoff.

P-51-Two P-51 Mustangs take off during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course
Senior Airman Christopher Drzazgowski , U.S. Air Force

Commanding Officer Don Blakeslee of the 354th Fighter Squadron was a notoriously aggressive officer. He demanded his pilots fly a collision course at German aircraft, effectively playing the deadliest game of “chicken” ever known.

P-51-P-51 Mustang pilot waves to the crowd attending the 2017 Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Beaufort Air Show training day
Lance Cpl. Kayla Rainbolt, U.S. Marine Corps

Mustang pilots shot down a total of 4,950 enemy aircraft during World War II. A total of 251 pilots achieved ‘ace’ status, with an average rate of 7.69 aircraft shot down per ‘ace’.

P-51-P-51 Mustang flying at Dunsfold Wings and Wheels 2014
Airwolfhound

The last P-51 Mustang retired from US Air Force service in 1978. The last foreign P-51 Mustang retired from Dominican Republic Air Force service in 1984.

Many P-51s were bought after the Korean War by civilians looking for a personal racing plane or a collector’s item. Several still operate today and participate in air shows.

P-51-P-51 flies in sunslight U.S. Air Force Tattoo
Senior Airman Delano Scott, U.S. Air Force

There were 16,776 P-51s produced over a five-year span (1940-1945). That’s roughly 350 planes per month.

P-51-North American P-51D-30-NT Mustang Cripes A Mighty 3rd Second Pass 10
Valder137

Major George Preddy Jr., a U.S. Army Air Force officer and P-51 Mustang Ace, was the highest scoring Ace of all time with 27.5 aerial victories.

55 nations utilized the P-51 Mustang over the course of its lifetime. The aircraft flew in the Pacific theater as well as the European theater, making it one of the only fighter planes versatile and long-lasting enough to do so.

P-51-crew moves P-51 Mustang
Tech. Sgt. Forest Decker, U.S. Air Force

P-51 Mustangs accounted for nearly half of all enemy aircraft taken down during WWII. Pilots were encouraged to place stickers of Nazi swastikas near the cockpit to track their kills.

-51-Captain Lazear stands by the nose of his P-51D Pennie's Earl
United States Army Air Forces

‘Pursuit’ puts the P in P-51. Later, during the Korean War, the P-51 became the F-51 with F standing for ‘fighter’.

P-51-cockpit
Clemens Vasters

Recently, in 2013, a P-51 flown out of Palm Beach, Fla. by Doug Matthews, broke several long-standing records for the aircraft. He broke the all-time altitude record (42,500 feet) as well as maximum altitude in level flight (41,000) and time-to-climb 9,000 (18 minutes) and 12,000 meters (31 minutes).

P-51-A QuickSilver P-51 Mustang flies toward the U.S. Air Force Tattoo at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.
Senior Airman Delano Scott, U.S. Air Force

The Mustang’s armament varied throughout its lifespan, but later versions were outfitted with: six .50-cal wing machine guns or four 20mm wing cannons, six or 10 5-inch H.V.A.R rockets, 1,000 pounds of bombs or M10 triple-tube rocket launchers.

Its first engine was a V-1710 Allison engine, which didn’t provide it with the ability to be effective as a pursuit vehicle over 15,000 feet of altitude. The original P-51s with these engines were used for photo reconnaissance or dive-bombing.

P-51 Mustangs, with the original Allison engines, had an optional external drop tank that allowed them to extend their range from 750 miles to 1,375 miles – nearly doubling their range.

By 1943, P-51 B and C versions were outfitted with Rolls Royce Merlin engines which allowed them to reach their full capabilities by performing at high-altitude while acting as long-range bomber escorts and attack aircraft. These engines increased range to a maximum of 1,600 miles.

The D version of the P-51 Mustang was the highest-produced model of the Mustang. The P-51D increased its overall armament and added the bubble-shaped clear canopy that increased pilot visibility.

Another version of the P-51 is the twin known as P-82. The P-82 could fly distances of more than 2,300 miles where as the P-51 Mustangs were limited to roughly 1,600 miles.

P-51- Inside a P-51 Mustang 44- 73149
Alan Wilson

One of the design implementations that gave the P-51 an edge out of the gate was the laminar flow wing. The wing provided less drag at high-speeds and, at the time, was head and shoulders above other wing designs.


The Mustang had 180 gallons of internal fuel storage, more than twice that of the Supermarine Spitfire, the secondary aircraft of WWII. The P-51 was a favorite among pilots because of its range of about six hours flight time.

An original World War II era North American Aviation P-51 fighter-bomber is now up for sale. As long as you’ve got $3.9 million!

-51-he P-51 Mustang “Double Trouble two” sits on the flightline at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Sgt. Christopher Drzazgowski, U.S. Air Force

The first Mustang aerial victory came in the air raid Operation Jubilee on August 19, 1942. Flight Officer Hollis “Holly” Hills took down an Fw-190 that had damaged a separate P-51.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang sits on the flightline during a sunset after the first day of the 2016 Heritage Flight Training
Staff Sgt. Christopher Drzazgowski , U.S. Air Force

Each plane could carry 1000 pounds of bombs, which is twice as much payload as similar aircraft during the era.

P-51-U.S. Air Force airmen help push a P-51 Mustang out of a hanger before takeoff, Shaw Air Force Base
Senior Airman Kenneth Holston, U.S. Airforce

In a book titled World War 2 In Review, Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring (2nd in command and successor to Adolf Hitler) said, “The day I say Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the jig was up.”

P-51-The P-51 Mustang “Fragile but Agile” sits on the flightline after the first day of the 2016 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course-U.S. Air Force
Staff Sgt. Christopher Drzazgowski, U.S. Air Force

The United States flew more P-51s than any other nation, but North American Aviation originally designed and engineered the P-51 for the Royal Air Force. It wasn’t until a year after the first ones were used in service that the United States began to fight with them.

P-51-Scott “Scooter” Yoak returns from performing in his P-51D Mustang aircraft during the 2017 MCAS Beaufort Air Show
Lance Cpl. Benjamin McDonald, U.S. Marine Corps

A tactical strategy change in 1944 allowed pilots to push ahead of the bombers they were escorting. Moving ahead allowed them to attack the German aircraft before they could get into position.

P-51-P-51D Mustangs flying
U.S. Air Force

Changing the engine in the P-51 had an immediate impact. In 1943, 9.1 percent of the Eighth Air Force bombers credited with attacking enemy targets failed to return to their base; in 1944, that number was reduced drastically to only 3.5 percent.

Sgt. Marc I. Lane, U.S. Air Force

The last time a P-51 Mustang was in combat was in 1969 during the Soccer War between El Salvador and Honduras.

P-51-P-51 Mustang (color)
Steve Doyle

The famous ‘Red Leader’ from Star Wars lore was born from the P-51 Mustang. George G. Loving, P-51 ace, was the original ‘Red Leader’.

P-51-North American P-51 Mustang figther plane over France
U.S. Air Force

The German Messerschmitt 109 was so close in looks to the P-51 that in the initial months of the plane’s service, British forces fired on their own P-51s. Additionally, Germans didn’t defend themselves properly because they too mistook the P-51s for Messerschmitt 109s.

P-51-North American P-51 Mustang at an unknown location, circa 1947
131st Bomb Wing file photo

Germany used P-51s in WWII. While its thought that none were used in combat by the Germans, there are confirmed test flights by Germans of refurbished P-51s that crash landed in Germany.

P-51-Mr. Bill Yoak, P-51 Mustang owner and crew chief, performs preflight checks prior to takeoff
Senior Airman Kenneth Holston , U.S. Air Force

P-51s were notoriously difficult to destroy. During a strafing run on Nazi-populated France in 1942, a P-51 flying at “zero feet” tore its wing off on a concrete telegraph pole and still managed to land safely with no harm to the pilot.

P-51-Jeff Linebaugh taxis out in the P-51 Mustang Gunfighter
Lance Cheung

Another legendary crash landing involved a Canadian pilot in the Dieppe Raid. He famously radioed to the air field, “Here I come. Get ready. No landing gear, no flaps, no nothing”, and landed without a scratch on him.

-51-Head-on shot of a World War II era P-51 Mustang while flying over the Arizona desert during a USAF Heritage Conference 2002
Greg L. Davis

Some P-51s that saw combat well beyond WWII were upgraded to include wing-mounted pulsejet engines. The P-51s were still capable enough as fighters but needed a jet engine if they were to compete with both friendly and enemy jets.

P-51-P-51 practicing formation flying during a USAF Heritage Conference 2002 training flight
Greg L. Davis

P-51s hunted down UFOs. In 1948 two UFO sightings over the United States were recorded by P-51 pilots, one in Kentucky and one in North Dakota, and while pilots attempted to chase down these aircraft, nothing came of it.

P-51-Ed Shipley flies a P-51 Mustang in a heritage flight during an air show at Langley Air Force Base
Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker, U.S. Air Force

The Tuskeegee Airmen, also known as Redtails for their iconic all red tail surfaces, flew P-51s in WWII. The Redtails never lost a bomber on any of the hundreds of escort missions they flew.

P-51-A P-51D Mustang shown inside a maintenance hangar with extended range drop tanks and hard points
Greg L. Davis

North American Aviation designed, engineered and built the P-51 Mustang in just 102 days. Their production facilities were in Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang prepares to takeoff from the Shaw flightline
Senior Airman Kenneth Holston, U.S. Air Force

Initially, before the engines were upgraded to Rolls Royce Merlins, P-51s flew as reconnaissance aircraft and low-level fighters under the designation F-6 for the Royal Air Force.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang prepares to take off during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course
Airman 1st Class Mya Crosby, U.S. Airforce

Some estimates credit the Mustang with a kill ratio of 19:1. If that number is accurate, it would be the highest kill ratio by an American aircraft in combat.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang performs aerial maneuvers for a crowd
Staff Sgt. Mike Meares, U.S. Air Force

The USAAF placed an order for 2200 P-51s in 1942. North American Aviation shifted production of all other aircraft at its Inglewood production site to other sites in order to focus solely on P-51 production.

-51-A P-51 Mustang flies over Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, during a military tattoo Sept. 16, 2015
Airman 1st Class Philip Bryant ,U.S. Air Force

All P-51s built in 1942 and 1943 in Inglewood were given the designation P-51B. All P-51s built during that same period in Dallas (North American Aviation’s other main build site) were designated P-51C.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang displaying World War II D-Day markings is parked at the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base
Master Sgt. Mark Olsen, U.S. Air Force

The first U.S. squad to fly the Mustang in combat was the Morocco-based 154th Observation Squadron. They used 35 P-51-2NA’s for a few weeks in the spring of 1943.

P-51-A P-51 Mustang displaying World War II D-Day markings is parked at the Atlantic City Air National Guard Base
Master Sgt. Mark Olsen , U.S. Air Force

The recommended technique for dive bombing using a P-51 was to dive from roughly 9,000 feet at 90 degrees, with special dive brakes extended to keep speed under 400 MPH. At 3,000 feet, the pilot dropped two 500-pound bombs and pulled out at 1,500 feet.

P-51-A North American P-51 takes off from Iwo Jima, in the Bonin Islands
U.S. Air Force

Lt. Mike Russo of the 27th BG was the only pilot to make Ace in an Allison-powered P-51. All other Aces used the Merlin engine powered P-51s.

P-51-A North American P-51 Mustang (6N-K, serial number 44-14734) nicknamed Baby Mine of the 339th Fighter Group
Sgt. Ryan Campbell, U.S. Air Force

The P-51 was the first single-engine fighter in the Royal Air Force (Britain) with enough range to reach to the heart of Germany and back. This gave the bombers a proper escort for the first time in the war.

P-51- two P-51 Mustangs fly in formation during the 2017 Heritage Flight Training and Certification Course at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base
Airman 1st Class Mya Crosby, U.S. Air Force

When the P-51D model was created, with plexiglass bubble canopy, the added 85-gallon fuselage tank affected directional stability. To combat this, a dorsal fin was added to the latter groups of P-51Ds.

P-51- An Air Force F-22 Raptor flies in formation with a World War II-era P-51 Mustang over Panama City Beach, Fla
Staff Sgt. Jason Couillard, U.S. Air Force

The P-51D also added a K-14 gunsight which gave those pilots an advantage over every aircraft in the world. The K-14 computed and displayed the proper angle of deflection necessary to hit a moving aircraft.

P-51- P-51 proved ideal for long range escort missions and an equal match to the Luftwaffe’s fighters
Department of Defense

In late-February, 1944, the USAAF planned a “Big Week” and the P-51D models being delivered to the European Theater was the last piece of the puzzle. “Big Week” was a direct attack on the German’s fighter force by bombing its airfields and manufacturing plants, as well as shooting its operational planes out of the sky.

P-51 A P-51 Mustang performs for the crowd during the Aviation Nation Air Show Nov. 10
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, U.S. Air Force

VIII Fighter Command made a point to destroy all Luftwaffe aircraft in 1944 – they began to count destroying grounded Luftwaffe as kill for tallying purposes. Never before had destroying a grounded plane during strafing counted as a kill, but the tallying made the P-51s record all the more formidable once they started.

P-51- A P-51 Mustang passes over the Shaw flightline
Senior Airman Kenneth Holston, U.S. Air Force

Towards the end of WWII, Mustang pilots found German fighter pilots to be untrained and lower quality pilots than at the beginning of the war. That’s because the USAAF and the RAF rotated their pilots, occasionally sending their best home to train new pilots – the Germans never took their best pilots off the front line.

A P-51D Mustang shown inside a maintenance hangar with extended range drop tanks and hard points
Greg L. Davis

The only recorded double-kill by a piston-engined aircraft over a jet-powered aircraft occurred on October 7, 1944. German Me-262 could outfly the P-51 easily, but were slow to take off, so P-51 pilots hovered above German airfields. Pilot Ben Drew surprised two jets taking off and shot them both down – making history.

P-51- A P-51 Mustang prepares for take off at Bottisham-James D Smith

Now checkout these Fascinating Facts about the Supermarine Spitfire!

BONUS FACT

P-51-A P-51 Mustang aircraft flies past spectators during the 2017 Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT)
Tech. Sgt. Brian Kimball, U.S. Air Force

213, 837 confirmed missions were carried out by P-51 aircraft in the USAAF alone – totaling more than 1.12 million flight hours.