Penn of Neenah, Wisconsin, was counted as the 2,000th cockpit
visitor to Quicksilver. Photo by Frederick A. Johnsen
got the notion he could contribute something rare to air shows by
letting people touch and sit in his P-51D Mustang fighter, nicknamed Quicksilver.
With so many showplane owners understandably trying to keep their rare
aircraft unscathed, Bill decided he would do just the opposite, to let
visitors appreciate his Mustang in a tactile, close-up way.
AirVenture 2008 on Thursday, Bill and his display team counted the
2,000th person to sit in his P-51 since he started the hands-on
experience at AirVenture last year. He got the notion when a small girl,
whom he describes as a "4- or 5-year-old American doll" walked
up and touched his Mustang last year. The girl’s father quickly
admonished her: "Katie, get your hands off the airplane!,"
Bill recounted. Yoak quickly invited the little girl to touch the
Mustang and sit in the cockpit. "We are coming up on 2,000 Katies,"
he said shortly before that milestone became a reality. Yoak said this
is the most rewarding thing he has ever done, sharing and giving his
Mustang experience with others. "I love people," he vouched.
likes to see "what this airplane brings out in people. Wait’ll
you see the smiles." Yoak figures he is doing the other warbird
owners a favor by letting people touch his airplane. "We’re here
to draw fire for them," he joked. Yoak figures any smudges are
easily wiped off, and even scratches can be removed. He says when he
invites people to touch his P-51, they often become very tentative and
gentle, as if touching a newborn child. Signs taped to the Mustang say:
"Yes, you may touch me…gently."
keeps a relaxed, humorous banter going with the line of about 50 people
waiting to sit in his P-51. He mixes a bit of good-natured humor with
patriotism as he invites visitors to appreciate his warbird as a
monument to American veterans.
number 2,000 as tallied by Yoak’s team turned out to be Barbara Penn,
visiting AirVenture 2008 with her three kids from nearby Neenah,
Wisconsin. She received special acknowledgment from Yoak, and a special
P-51 Mustang patch.
And then it was back to
greet visitor number 2,001. Bill Yoak likes to announce: "Anyone
caught NOT touching Quicksilver will be ejected from the