Mustang F-51D "Patsy Dawn" Serial Number 325
The Mustang aircraft is not new to the South African Air Force as early models of this British initiated, American built fighter, served with distinction in 5 Squadron while operating in North Africa, Italy and Yugoslavia during World War Two (1939-1945). When the South African Government committed a Squadron to the United Nations Forces in Korea, in 1950, 2 Squadron (The Flying Cheetah's) was selected to join the fray with Spitfires.
This decision was however rescinded and it was decided to operate the aircraft which were already in theatre and for which full logistic support was already established. 2 Squadron South African Air Force resorted under the United States 18th Fighter-bomber Wing for the duration of the Korean War (1950-1953), flying P-51 Mustangs.
While in Korea, the SAAF maintenance personnel gave a practical demonstration of their enthusiasm, tactical skills and abilities that placed them even higher on the prestige list of the United Nations. Thirteen SAAF ground maintenance members, under the leadership of Warrant Officer Frank Willard were granted permission by the Squadron Commander to construct their own aircraft, providing that any work carried out on this project did not interfere with Squadron operational maintenance work. All work was therefore carried out in their spare time. The wreck of Mustang 325 was used for this project.
Using parts from other South African Air Force aircraft that had either crashed or had been written off due to other reasons and working during their spare time only, this magnificent project of completely rebuilding a Mustang aircraft from scrap was completed by the thirteen members after 1 200 hours of hard work and was ready for a test flight within 30 days. After a conference by all concerned, this resulting hybrid aircraft was again numbered 325 and Warrant Officer Frank Willard christened the aircraft Patsy Dawn - after his two young daughters.
The test flight was carried out by one of the Squadron’s Flight Commanders who reported outstanding results. Further tests on this aircraft revealed that it was 15 miles per hour faster than any other aircraft in the Squadron and that it exhibited outstanding flying qualities. Mustang 325 was used extensively on operations against the enemy in Korea. The thirteen South African men responsible for this feat which saved the South African Government the cost of a new aircraft were:
W/O F. Willard Pretoria
F/Sgt F.J. Stoffberg Pretoria
F/Sgt H.S.J. Barber Pretoria
A/Sgt F.W. Cernell Pretoria
A/Sgt B.V. Watkins Pretoria
A/Sgt B.R. Leach Pretoria
A/Cpl S.J. Swanepoel Pretoria
A/Cpl H.A. de Bod Cape Town
A/Cpl C.L. Berry Cape Town
A/Cpl J.A. van der Merwe Pretoria
A/Cpl W.E. Naude Pretoria
L.A.M. H.D. Millard Cape Town
L.A.M. K.E. Pugh Cape Town
SAAF Museum’s F-51D Mustang bearing the tail number 325 was an ex-Swiss and Dominican Air Force F-51D that was acquired in 1987 from the USA. Initial inspection of the airframe found corrosion and stripping commenced as soon as the crated aircraft arrived at Zwartkop. Bad luck, missing parts, stretched cables and lack of funds, made its restoration a long and laborious task, but after 11 years the labour of love was completed. It is the third time that a SAAF Mustang bears this number. After a lengthy restoration, the Mustang was christened "Patsy Dawn" with both proud ladies being present at the christening ceremony.
During May 2001, the aircraft was forced to carry out a wheels-up landing due to undercarriage failure following a stripped rod-end thread that prevented the right hand uplock from freeing the main gear leg prior to landing. There was little that pilot Lt Colonel Neil Thomas could do and so he successfully completed a wheels-up landing, which damaged the propeller and, at first inspection, appeared to limit the damage to the fuselage underside and one wing. The engine was, however, stripped for the board of enquiry report and a crankcase crack was discovered between numbers one and two cylinders.
The propeller was sent to Safe Air in New Zealand to see if it could be repaired. However, while Safe Air had the technology to return the damaged propeller blades to their original shape, they could not guarantee serviceability, so the SAAF Museum, reluctant to take the risk, asked that they return the blades and hub. A replacement from the USA currently costs some US$130,000.00. The engine requires a complete overhaul costing US$250,000.00 on exchange, an amount the SAAF simply has no budget for. While the engine and propeller have a finite cost to replace, returning the Mustang to airworthy condition requires another major step.
Having repaired the metalwork and re-skinned a number of wing panels, when the SAAF Museum’s technicians began to re-install the control surfaces it was found they were out of alignment, indicating unseen deformation in the right hand wing. Some barely visible wrinkles were also spotted on the left hand wing, the entire wing being a one-piece assembly. This means that the Mustang needs to have its wing-skins stripped and the framework placed in a manufacturing jig, which only exists in the USA. Thus, the present cost has rendered the Mustang a static exhibit only.
Country of origin: United States of America
Manufactured as: North American F-51D Mustang
Served with: Number 2 Squadron (Flying Cheetahs) in Korea from 1951 to 1953.
Role: Fighter and ground attack
Power Plant: One Packard (Merlin) 12 cylinder engine Delivering 1 186 kW (1 590 hp)
Max take-off mass: 5 262 kg
Max speed: 703 km/h
Max range: 2 092 km
Armament:Six .50 (12.7mm) Browning machine guns,
-Two 227 kg bombs or two Napalm bombs
-Six 127 mm rockets