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So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on. 
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Post So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on.
OK so here is the setup. My wife and some friends had been planning a Napa trip for a while now, and in one of the wine magazines they were looking at, there was a small ad for "Vintage Aircraft Rides". The wife knows about my love of WWII aircraft, so she decided to surprise me with a ride. She called up the number, spoke to a real nice lady named Cheryl, and the wife said I would love to ride in the P-51 they had advertised. So it was tentatively scheduled.

Well a week before we arrived in Napa, the wife called the number again only to find out the P-51 was down for an annual and its engine was removed. It would not be back to the flight line in time. However...Cheryl casually mentioned they had a P-40N that had seen action in New Guinea in WWII, and it had been modified to an official 2-seat trainer with full controls in the back seat. Would my wife be interested in that? Well...my wife immediately became apprehensive (she was not sure if she wanted me actually touching REAL controls while in the air). She called my dad, and my dad said "Are you kidding? Take the P-40 ride!". And so she scheduled it.

Flash forward to Saturday, October 16. I am sitting right off the apron staring out at the other planes (A C-45, a Beech, etc) and having a random conversation with my wife at about 7:50 in the morning...and from around the back of the far hangar comes the P-40. Not sure what my wife was saying right then, but my first reaction was to blurt out "Holy shit, there she is!" and jump out of the car. Left my wife in mid-sentence. I think she just laughed at me.

A gentleman named Chris Prevost is the restorer and owner of this bird, and he did an absolutely amazing job. This old Kittyhawk is beautiful...he did not install any LCDs or GPS units - it is 100% authentic down to the training back seat and controls (the fuselage gas tank was removed to accomplish this). This particular aircraft is serial #42-105306 and was flown by Major (then Lt and Capt) Ray Melikian of the 7th Fighter Squadron, 49th Fighter Group. Major Melikian was credited with one Zero kill, one Ki-43 kill, and one Betty kill. His original P-40 carried three rising sun flags and 5 bombs denoting his successful engagements.

So back to the present...I strap in (with some help, wow on the straps), Chris fires up the engine, and we taxi out and hold short to let the pressure equalize in the cool morning. After about 5 or so minutes, he taxis onto the runway, scares a flock of birds away, turns 180 and taxis back to the end. He turns another 180, eases the throttle forward, and we are rolling. He asked if I wanted him to explain what he was doing, and I eagerly said "absolutely, anything you do". So he is calling out flaps, manifold pressure, gear status, etc as he climbs out and levels off. We hit level flight and he asks if I am ready - I of course say "sure". Chris pulls back on the stick and we shoot through the clouds and ease into leveling off at around 2500ft, just above cloud level on this crisp Sonoma morning. He tells me "You have to fly for a little bit just to say you did", and trims the rudder and ailerons for level flight. So here we are half a mile in the sky in a $2.5 million dollar aircraft, and he says "The stick is yours". So I put my feet on the pedals, grab the stick with my right hand, and slightly bank her left. Chris tells me I should apply a bit of back pressure on the stick to stay level in turns, so I do so, pulling a few S-turns, dropping a bit, climbing a bit, just enjoying the sound and the feel of the aircraft. I probably never turned more than about 45 degrees either way, but I had a better view of Sonoma and Petaluma than my wife or our friends had ALL weekend, and grinned all the way through it. This was NOTHING like flying a P-40 in a simulator...the smells were there, the G-Forces were there, the SOUND was there, it was simply amazing.

And yet it was a VERY familiar feeling...it felt good and I was surprisingly comfortable with the controls.

After about 8-10 minutes I asked Chris to take the controls back and show me some of what he liked to do in this aircraft. He leveled out, gave a bit of forward pressure to gain some speed, and all of a sudden I was looking up at the ground as he rolled the aircraft over and back. It was effortless. He climbed a bit and did it again, more of a barrel roll then an aileron roll this time, again effortless. I have done this SO many times on my PC, but it never felt so thrilling. He took us back toward Sonoma Valley, rolled over and dove down toward a truck on the road (we were scanning for birds near the runway), and I all of a sudden found myself SCREAMING along right above treetop level. Exhilarating is not a strong enough word. Before I knew it I was tired, hot, and looking at the runway. Chris called flaps down 10, pressure good, airspeed good, downwind leg. He turned base, called gear down, and communicated such to the ground. Final approach, flaps down (and wow does the Kittyhawk slow down with full flaps), airspeed 100, and Curtiss Zero Tango Papa was touching down. We rolled to a stop and I could only think of one thing. I had to get out??

I learned two things that morning. I was now addicted to flying in Vintage Aircraft (sorry to all you Cessna flyers out there...it's not the same). And second, tightening your abs and grunting in a high-speed turn really DOES help. There were a few times there I was caught a little by surprise...and reading all those WWII biographies where pilots mentioned how to keep from passing out actually paid off!

So I am already looking forward to returning to Napa. This time with a voice recorder (for comms) and a video recorder (for in-flight views). Cannot wait. My wife is skeptical and thinks I have had enough...but for the last two weeks we have been home, I have paused at least once per day to plan HOW to get back into a WWII fighter.

As a side note - here are some links to the history of this particular aircraft, its original pilot Major Ray Melikian, and Chris Prevost and his Sonoma Valley operation. For anyone living ANYWHERE near with some cash to blow - I would highly suggest it. http://www.vintageaircraft.com/ and http://sonomavalleyairport.com/


These are the pics my wife took. Sorry no in-flight photos, those will happen next time!


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Last edited by 14./JG5_Medar on Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:02 pm
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Post Re: So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on.
And FYI for those that run across it - I am reposting this twice to some old friends as well.

1. At Joint-Ops...still have a lot of friends over there.
2. At my old squad =AVG= ... they center on these aircraft and a lot of the fellas will get a kick out of this.

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Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:04 pm
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Post Re: So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on.
Great post medar and nice pics! :tu:

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Sat Nov 06, 2010 9:47 pm
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Post Re: So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on.
If this is the P-40 I'm thinking about, the gentleman lives in our town. They wrote a story about it in the paper a couple years ago. Very cool that you flew in it!

Thanks for sharing it!

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Sun Nov 07, 2010 2:56 am
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Post Re: So finally...my P-40 Flight expanded on.
Great story! At onetime I thought about joining the commemorative airforce. A friend at work who flew F-16s in the airforce was trying to get me to join. He flies their P51 to airshows and he told me I would have to start out on the AT6. Then build my hours up and graduate to the 51 or their SBD Dauntlas. Anyway, family life killed that dream for now. Maybe after my boy grows I can fullfilling that dream.

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Mon Nov 08, 2010 11:30 am
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