Calling All Mustangs
This September a super-size squadron of P-51s will relive the legend.
- By Stephen Joiner
- Air & Space magazine, August 2007
© Philip Makanna/ghosts
(Page 4 of 8)
Now a Rapid City neurosurgeon, Maxwell owns Scat VI, a P-51 painted to honor the Mustang of the same name flown by legendary U.S. Air Force ace Robin Olds (who died last June).
Once owned by IBM president Tom Watson, the fighter was named Old Boy when Maxwell acquired it in 2002. “I started thinking of how I could change the theme of the plane,” he says. “Robin Olds had always been my favorite ace.” A triple ace from his tours in World War II and Vietnam, Olds named each of his fighters Scat, in memory of a fallen comrade. His favorite was Scat VI—“the sweetest and truest Mustang I ever flew,” he once told Maxwell.
Maxwell researched Scat VI and had the markings and color scheme duplicated. But his airplane’s connection to the living pilot of the original fighter exceeds paint depth—an association increasingly uncommon in World War II warbirds as the decades accumulate. Owner and ace struck up an acquaintance and have since collaborated in a history forum at the EAA’s annual fly-in in Oshkosh, with Scat VI displayed as the ultimate show-and-tell. “He’s a real historian,” Maxwell says of Olds. “People ask all sorts of questions and just listen in stunned silence to his stories.”
The Mustang effect appears to work both ways. Maxwell notes its impact on Olds: “You can see it in his eyes when he’s around the plane,” he says. “It seems to take him back to his life as a young man.” Later, Olds confirmed that impression. “It’s like meeting an old girlfriend you once loved with all your heart and soul,” he told me on the phone. “I just loved P-51s.”
The association with Olds gives his aircraft “a persona,” says Maxwell. When I inquire about a contemporary photograph of Scat VI, Maxwell immediately suggests a World War II-era shot of Olds with the original Scat VI instead. “You don’t want any pictures of me,” says Maxwell. “I’m just the owner. Robin is the ace.”
INA The Macon Belle
Polk City, Florida
“The coolest day of my life was the first time I taxied up to a ramp in a P-51 Mustang,” says Kermit Weeks. “I threw my bags out and started giving rides.”
The year was 1979, and Weeks was flying his first Mustang, a P-51D named Cripes A’ Mighty 3rd. Six years later, Weeks purchased a C-model that he restored and named INA the Macon Belle, representing the legendary Red Tail Mustangs of the Tuskegee airmen. The man who flew the original Macon Belle had some cool himself: Colonel Lee Archer had been one of the top pilots of the 332nd Fighter Group, which flew in the European theater.
A prominent figure in the warbird community, Weeks has spent the last 30 years assembling the largest private collection of vintage aircraft in the world, which he stores at the Fantasy of Flight museum. The Mustang that would become Macon Belle was rescued from a scrap yard by renowned Hollywood stunt pilot Paul Mantz, who fixed it up and put it to use winning the Bendix racing trophy in 1948. By the time Weeks got the P-51, it was badly corroded from years of outdoor storage.