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Story and photo by Katie Wainfan

Will Saloga from Batavia, Illinois.

With sunny skies bringing the crowds to day one of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2010, we asked this question of people from one end of the field to the other: If they could spend an hour flying any airplane they’ve seen at AirVenture, what would it be? And: If you could spend an hour flying with any pilot, who would it be?

Surprisingly, from the Ultralight area to Scotts Warbird Alley, the answers were remarkably consistent. Person after person said that if they only had an hour to spend flying, the P-51 Mustang would be their plane of choice.

The fighter-pilot vet’s perspective
Will Saloga, who flew his Cessna 195 from Batavia, Illinois, was an Air Force pilot for 20 years flying Phantoms and F-16s, so it was the history of the airplane that intrigued him. “I got to ride in one in high school,” Saloga said, and he said he would the opportunity to do it again.

Childhood memories
Brothers Wilbert and Allan Senope agreed that the Mustang is the plane they would like to spend an hour in. “It was the plane of childhood during World War II,” said Wilbert. Allan Senope also builds radio-controlled P-51 models at his home in Beloit, Wisconsin. Jim Mayer chose the P-51 because of the speed and the sound of the engine.

Love the one you’re with
Kendall Wagner from Chino, California, is one of the lucky few to own a P-51—so naturally, “she” is his choice. She goes by the name of Lady Alice, and Wagner wouldn’t trade her for anything. “It’s the best plane ever invented,” he said of the P-51, “and Lady Alice is the prettiest here.”

The runners-up
Other warbirds of choice included the P-38 Lightning—which Wes Blasjo from Riverside, California, thinks is the “greatest World War II fighter”—and Bill Van Osdd’s choice, the F4U Corsair. He was in Naval Flight School during World War II, but the program was shut down before he had a chance to fly the Corsair.

The light stuff
On the lighter end of the spectrum, Cathy Bayko, who came in from Dunnville, Ontario, has a fondness for the diminutive twin-tailed Ercoupe. “I’m a student pilot,” she said, “and I would love to be able to buy one.”

To take a tumble with Tucker
World famous aerobatic pilot Sean D. Tucker was also a popular pick, with Cathy Bayko and Wes Blasjo both wanting an hour to learn from one of the world’s best pilots.

Miracles happen
Bob Schroeder from Bedford, Wisconsin, chose Miracle on the Hudson pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Schroeder said, “He’s an exceptional pilot. I would learn a lot.”

Fly with me!
Finally, Dick Martin from Green Bay, Wisconsin, chose himself. “There are great aviators out there,” he said, “but I would rather fly than ride any day.”

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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