|Bob Hoover performs in Ole Yeller at Oshkosh in the mid-1990s.
|A more recent air-to-air shot of Ole Yeller.
The brightly colored P-51D Mustang made famous by the Pilot's Pilot, Bob Hoover, will be among the special aircraft appearing at AirVenture Oshkosh 2011. Ole Yeller, N51RH, will participate in EAA's Tribute to Bob Hoover Day, scheduled for Tuesday, July 26.
Hoover flew Ole Yeller for 20 years as the Reno Unlimited Class's official pace and safety plane. On March 29, 1985, Hoover set a world speed record for prop planes in Ole Yeller that still stands today: Los Angeles, California, to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 5 hours, 20 minutes.
The airplane that would become Ole Yeller was built in 1944, rolling off the line with S/N 44-74739. Hoover had been flying another P-51 at air shows for North American Rockwell throughout the 1960s, but acquired Ole Yeller after the first plane was destroyed in a ground accident by an oxygen bottle explosion. He owned the airplane through 1997, when he sold it to good friend John Bagley of Rexburg, Idaho, adding to his Legacy Flight Museum in Rexburg, Idaho.
Bagley called the airplane "a national monument" and is extremely honored to own it. "It's the most recognized Mustang there is," he said. "Someone asked me if I would ever repaint it. I said I will, but only yellow. It will always be Ole Yeller, the Hoover Mustang."
Although Bagley will not be able to attend AirVenture 2011, his son, Shawn, and his mechanic, Todd Therp, will. One of them will pilot Ole Yeller to Oshkosh and during the week.
John Bagley, who also owns the Morman Mustang, recalls when he acquired Ole Yeller in 1997. "I had just gotten a Sea Fury that spring. Reno that year was to be Bob Hoover's last flying the pace plane, and afterwards he called me and asked if I wanted to buy Ole Yeller. Having just gotten the Sea Fury, I told him I could not afford it. So he asked me to come down to Torrance and have dinner. I said I could afford that, and when I got down there, he and his wife, Colleen, said they wanted me to own it."
Several weeks later they came to terms both could live with. Hoover gave Bagley his cockpit checkout and was standing on the ramp as he made his first flight in Ole Yeller. "I love to fly it," he said. "It's the smoothest Mustang I've ever flown," Bagley said, attributing it to the tweaks performed by Hoover over the years.
The P-51 was designed by the North American Aviation Company in 1940, from specifications provided by the British government. The first P-51 models (the A-36, the P-51, and the P-51A) were powered by Allison engines. Subsequent models (B, C, D, H, and K) had Merlins or Merlin variants built by the Packard Motor Car Co., which was licensed to build them to provide sufficient numbers of the engines for the war effort. More than 15,000 Mustangs were produced, including all models.
Wingspan: 37 feet
Length: 32 feet, 2 inches
Height: 13 feet, 8 inches
Max speed: 505 mph
Cruise speed: 437 mph
Gross weight: 12,100 pounds
Power plant: Rolls-Royce Merlin V-1650-7
Fuel capacity: 184 gallons
Fuel consumption: 60 gph
Armament: 6 x .50 caliber machine guns and could carry two 1,000-pound bombs or six 5-inch rockets.