There are few crafts that demand such attention to detail as high-end aircraft restoration. Millions of dollars are plowed into aircraft in horrible shape, some even pulled from glaciers or the sea, and they are meticulously rebuilt by hand. One P-51 owner in particular wanted his Mustang to go a step further than all others- operational .50cal machine guns.
Twilight Tear is one gorgeous P-51D Mustang owned by Ron Fagen of Fagan's Fighters, (make sure to check out his whole collection and the museum, it is amazing!) located Granite Falls, Minnesota. The aircraft was restored starting in the mid 200os and nothing was left unaccounted for. Part of this near religious attention to detail saw Ron's team hunting down six .50cal Browning machine guns for Twilight Tear's wings, something no other Mustang had. The idea was to make them usable, and thus he would own the world's only 'fully operational' P-51D.
According to EAA, this was done by Fagen getting his machine gun manufacturer's license from the ATF, and then procuring the big guns and restoring them for his flying masterpiece. The results of which are spectacular and time bending:
According to Mustangs Mustangs Twilight Tear's life has been an eventful and migratory one, including three kills over Europe and stints with the Swedish and Israeli Air Force, and was flown around by aviation legend Bill Lear for a period of time:
1944: Dec 14, accepted by USAAF as 44-63864 - served with 8th AF, 78th FG, 83rd FS as "Twilight Tear". Pilot Hubert Davis, Duxford, England with 3 confirmed kills: 2 Me262, 1 Me109
1945: stored after WWII, Germany
1948: Swedish AF as RSWAF 26158
1953: Feb 09, Israeli AF as IDFAF 23??, carried ferry# 3506 on delivery
1960: Jul 17, N251L, Lear Incorporated / William Lear Jr., Geneva Switzerland
1960: Dec 06, modifications made by Israeli Aircraft Industries
1962: Dec 03, N251L, deregistered in USA for registration in Switzerland, but never registered
1962: Dec 11, N251L, William Pearce, Fullerton CA - acquired from INTEXPORT
1963: May 29, Ferry permit issued by FAA for a ferry flight(s) from Paris France to La Guardia Airport NY
1963: Jun 06, crashed, Keflavik Airport Iceland during landing on 2nd leg of ferry flight from France. Pilot, Roger G Arnoult died a few hour after being transported by helicopter to the hospital. Wreckage stored in Iceland
1970: Nov 23, N251L, Revoked by FAA for not filing FAA Registration forms
1986: Oct 13, Iceland - wreckage was saved from scrap by Petur Jonsson and Michael Valdimarsson. The wreckage was being stored in a scrap yard, awaiting disposal.
1991: Feb 25, Iceland CAA issued a letter stating that the wreckage of N251L was of no commercial value and was released to Petur Jonsson and Michael Valdimarsson of Reykjavik Iceland and considered to be their property.
1991: Feb 25, Cham Gill, Central Point OR, purchased wreckage from Petur Jonsson, Iceland
1991: May 14, N42805, 44-63864, FAA approved documents provided by Cham Gill and issued registration
1991: Jul 29, N42805, Kenneth Hake, Tipton KS
2005: Aug 22, N42805, Ron Fagen, Granite Falls MN
So there you have it, a fully operational P-51D Mustang! You know, come to think of it, it would not be that bad of a little homeland defense fighter for the USAF...
Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for Jalopnik.com You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address Tyler@Jalopnik.com