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Piece of aviation history lives on in hangar at Perth Airport

Monday, June 16, 2014
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Dave Murphy, left, and Russell Cecil, stand with their P-51 Mustang at an airstrip in Perth on Wednesday.
Dave Murphy, left, and Russell Cecil, stand with their P-51 Mustang at an airstrip in Perth on Wednesday.

— The clouds had gathered overhead and an unseasonable chill had gripped the air, pushing out whatever bits of warmth were left from earlier in the day.

It was not great flying weather, but on Wednesday afternoon, the “Never Miss” was bringing the past to life at the Perth Airport, rather than heading off into the wild blue.

Pilot Mark Murphy cranked up the engine and steered the P-51 Mustang toward the grass. The engine hummed, and even at a quarter of its power, it drowned out every voice, every car horn, every ounce of sound in the world.

Never Miss, owned by Murphy’s father, Dave Murphy, and Dave Murphy’s friend Russell Cecil, is one of more than 15,000 P-51s manufactured and one of fewer than 200 still flying.

Murphy, who has 27 years of flying experience, knows the power of the Mustang and its capabilities. A heavy hand on the throttle could flip the plane over on its head, which is the last thing a pilot would want to do to a such a fine specimen of aviation and military history.

The P-51 Mustang is regarded by many as the best fighter plane flown by the U.S. military during World War II, and as the pinnacle of piston-engine fighter design, which would soon be rendered obsolete by the jet engine. It could attack air and ground targets, but its crucial role was to escort bombers during air raids over Germany.

Earlier Allied fighters had too little range to reach targets in Germany, and U.S. bombers were vulnerable to German fighter planes for much of their mission. Many didn’t survive the flight to the target, or the flight back to England. The P-51 outperformed almost everything the Luftwaffe could put in the sky, so as it became available in greater numbers, the air campaign soon became more effective, as well as less costly in American lives and machines.

“This plane turned the tide of war,” said Cecil, who has been in love with airplanes ever since he was a kid growing up in the 1950s, eyes wide while watching old war movies.

Cecil, who is an expert in joint replacement and hand surgery, has countless pictures and paintings of planes on his office wall at Mohawk Valley Orthopedics, forming almost a shrine.

It was about eight years ago while he was rowing on the Mohawk River that a P-51 flew right over him. He immediately rushed over to the Schenectady County Airport, where he assumed the airplane had come from. He was right. That day, The Collings Foundation, whose mission is to preserve historic airplanes, was offering rides in a Mustang. Cecil paid $2,300 for a half-hour flight and was hooked on getting one of his own.

It took some searching but ultimately, with his friend Dave Murphy, they purchased a Mustang for $1.35 million. It was one of the later models, a P-51D built in 1945, and had been delivered to Europe just weeks before the war there ended.

The senior Murphy owns the Perth Airport, where the plane is kept, and also likes to repair damaged airplanes. “Russell talked me into it,” he chuckled, as they stood below the Mustang in its hangar.

Later that day, they took the warbird out to show Stephen Hoshlyk and Gilbert Wendt, two World War II veterans who had been invited to see the plane for themselves.

Over the years, Dave Murphy and Cecil have had veterans like Hoshlyk and Wendt come and see the plane as a way of honoring the service of the veterans and the plane itself.

Mark Murphy flies the plane at air shows as well, one as recently as two weeks ago in Rhode Island. With Hoshlyk and Wendt watching nearby, he beamed as he drove the plane further and further onto the grass. The moisture in the air was split apart by the force of the propeller.

“You wear the airplane. You’re flying a piece of history, too,” he said prior to getting inside the plane, prior igniting its roar.

“Hopefully it will live longer than we are.”

It was not great flying weather, but on Wednesday afternoon, the “Never Miss” was bringing the past to life at the Perth Airport, rather than heading off into the wild blue.

Pilot Mark Murphy cranked up the engine and steered the P-51 Mustang toward the grass. The engine hummed, and even at a quarter of its power, it drowned out every voice, every car horn, every ounce of sound in the world.

Never Miss, owned by Murphy’s father, Dave Murphy, and Dave Murphy’s friend Russell Cecil, is one of more than 15,000 P-51s manufactured and one of fewer than 200 still flying.

Murphy, who has 27 years of flying experience, knows the power of the Mustang and its capabilities. A heavy hand on the throttle could flip the plane over on its head, which is the last thing a pilot would want to do to a such a fine specimen of aviation and military history.

The P-51 Mustang is regarded by many as the best fighter plane flown by the U.S. military during World War II, and as the pinnacle of piston-engine fighter design, which would soon be rendered obsolete by the jet engine. It could attack air and ground targets, but its crucial role was to escort bombers during air raids over Germany.

Earlier Allied fighters had too little range to reach targets in Germany, and U.S. bombers were vulnerable to German fighter planes for much of their mission. Many didn’t survive the flight to the target, or the flight back to England. The P-51 outperformed almost everything the Luftwaffe could put in the sky, so as it became available in greater numbers, the air campaign soon became more effective, as well as less costly in American lives and machines.

“This plane turned the tide of war,” said Cecil, who has been in love with airplanes ever since he was a kid growing up in the 1950s, eyes wide while watching old war movies.

Cecil, who is an expert in joint replacement and hand surgery, has countless pictures and paintings of planes on his office wall at Mohawk Valley Orthopedics, forming almost a shrine.

It was about eight years ago while he was rowing on the Mohawk River that a P-51 flew right over him. He immediately rushed over to the Schenectady County Airport, where he assumed the airplane had come from. He was right. That day, The Collings Foundation, whose mission is to preserve historic airplanes, was offering rides in a Mustang. Cecil paid $2,300 for a half-hour flight and was hooked on getting one of his own.

It took some searching but ultimately, with his friend Dave Murphy, they purchased a Mustang for $1.35 million. It was one of the later models, a P-51D built in 1945, and had been delivered to Europe just weeks before the war there ended.

The senior Murphy owns the Perth Airport, where the plane is kept, and also likes to repair damaged airplanes. “Russell talked me into it,” he chuckled, as they stood below the Mustang in its hangar.

Later that day, they took the warbird out to show Stephen Hoshlyk and Gilbert Wendt, two World War II veterans who had been invited to see the plane for themselves.

Over the years, Dave Murphy and Cecil have had veterans like Hoshlyk and Wendt come and see the plane as a way of honoring the service of the veterans and the plane itself.

Mark Murphy flies the plane at air shows as well, one as recently as two weeks ago in Rhode Island. With Hoshlyk and Wendt watching nearby, he beamed as he drove the plane further and further onto the grass. The moisture in the air was split apart by the force of the propeller.

“You wear the airplane. You’re flying a piece of history, too,” he said prior to getting inside the plane, prior igniting its roar.

“Hopefully it will live longer than we are.”

 
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