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With all the negative news about the hassles of flying, high ticket prices, and getting through airports these days, we finally found an aviation story with a positive spin!
Whenever retired pilot and P-51 Mustang enthusiast Sheridan Owens rolls his plane out of the hangar at Bountiful Sky Park, it certainly draws attention. As he says, "I can't go anywhere without attracting a crowd."
A career corporate jet pilot and model plane builder since he was a kid, Owens has built his ultimate model, a replica World War II P-51 Mustang in three-fourths scale. And yes, it flies!
The P-51 Mustang was a speedy, dive-bombing plane used mostly in Europe during the war. Thousands were built. Owens had his painted up to look like the real thing. "I always wanted a P-51, couldn't afford it. Right now they're going for a million-plus. But when this kit came out, I thought, ‘This is your chance,'" he said.
For three-and-a-half years, Owens and a friend worked six days a week installing every bolt, rivet, sheet metal panel and cockpit gauge. For this airplane enthusiast, it was a labor of love. And at that time in his life, in 2001, it was therapeutic too. "My wife of 41 years died, and I needed something to do. I had retired by then, and I found this airplane for sale," he said.
Now, at age 69 and battling cancer, he smiles every time he thinks about the P-51 Mustang. He flies it from time to time. For us, friend and fellow pilot Glenn Olsen did a few fly-by's for Chopper 5.
As Owens put it, "If you want a high adrenaline rush, this is the way to get it." He told us it cruises at 250 mph, but, "lower the nose a little bit and you're at 300 real fast!"
Owens' P-51 is a rare sight indeed. The company that manufactured the kits went out of business, not having sold very many. This Mustang is one of only four or five in the country that were ever built and that fly.
So, if you see it, bring your camera; Owens has gotten used to all the attention. Because of its uniqueness, Owens says he wants to start taking the plane to air shows around the country, a move that will certainly attract even more attention.