Lope's Hope 3rd Runs

Texas Flying Legends'
By Chuck Cravens

Texas Flying Legends
The guys prepare everything for the first test run inside the hangar.

The guys prepare everything for the first test run inside the hangar.

A big day in the restoration process for the P-51C-10NT, Lope’s Hope 3rd, occurred on October 5, 2017. The Merlin was run for the first time in the airframe and things went beautifully.  Mark Tisler turned it over and it only took a couple revolutions before the V-1650 fired up and smoothed out.

Mark hooks up the tow bar.

Mark hooks up the tow bar.

Lope’s Hope is on the apron ready to unhook and test start.

Lope’s Hope is on the apron ready to unhook and test start.

The Mustang is checked over very carefully to be certain it is ready to run.

The Mustang is checked over very carefully to be certain it is ready to run.

Here you can see the Army Air Force tail number 2103585 that was painted on before the black squadron paint was applied to the tail section.

Here you can see the Army Air Force tail number 2103585 that was painted on before the black squadron paint was applied to the tail section.

Mark climbs in as Erik walks by in front.

Mark climbs in as Erik walks by in front.

Mark let it run for 30 seconds then shut it down. Three runs were made, the second one was forjust under 2 minutes.  Both of those were part of the process of getting all the air out of the coolant system.  On the third longer run, Mark taxied out to taxiway Bravo to run the Merlin up to higher RPMs.

Mark let it run for 30 seconds then shut it down. Three runs were made, the second one was forjust under 2 minutes.  Both of those were part of the process of getting all the air out of the coolant system.  On the third longer run, Mark taxied out to taxiway Bravo to run the Merlin up to higher RPMs.

Denzil is helping burp the coolant system after the second run.

Denzil is helping burp the coolant system after the second run.

Denzil climbs down after adding coolant.

Denzil climbs down after adding coolant.

The sound, sight, and smell of a Merlin running is truly a visceral experience - especially for everyone who loves warbirds.  We can’t wait for the test flight!

The sound, sight, and smell of a Merlin running is truly a visceral experience - especially for everyone who loves warbirds.  We can’t wait for the test flight!

The team in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd on a great day!

The team in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd on a great day!

Aug/Sept Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends'
By Chuck Cravens

Texas Flying Legends'
The fuselage is lowered onto the wing.

The fuselage is lowered onto the wing.

Painting the Wing

Lope's Hope 3rd

Photo from Building the P-51 Mustang - Michael O’Leary - pg 56

North American Aviation ordered camouflage paint deleted from Mustangs and all subsequent fighters and bombers in an order dated January 1, 1944. Part of the order read:

“The wing leading edge of the Mustang will be smoothed and surfaced as outlined in the P-51 B and P-51C Series Repair Manual Report No NA5741, with exception that the camouflage coats will be deleted and aluminized lacquer will be applied over the surfaces. The deletion of the camouflage will eliminate approximately 42 pounds of finish from the B-25 series Airplanes and 16 pounds of finish from the P-51 Series Airplanes. It is anticipated that the removal of the camouflage will also result in materially increased speed.”

Wing Assemblies

This image shows a particularly critical part on Mustangs. The pivot shaft casting is a part that is both difficult to make from scratch and a part that tends to need replacement in service. The small diameter cable attached to the gear leg is the landing gear door timing link cable. It connects the gear strut to a valve that times the sequence of the gear fairing doors throughout the retraction cycle.

This image shows a particularly critical part on Mustangs. The pivot shaft casting is a part that is both difficult to make from scratch and a part that tends to need replacement in service. The small diameter cable attached to the gear leg is the landing gear door timing link cable. It connects the gear strut to a valve that times the sequence of the gear fairing doors throughout the retraction cycle.

Fuselage Work

The Fuselage is Mounted on the Wing

For the final time here in the restoration shop, the wing and fuselage were joined.  They will come apart to truck out to our hangar at the airport once all connections and fillets are fitted.  At that location, Lope’s Hope 3rd ‘s wings and fuselage will be mated permanently, everything will be connected and installed at the hangar, and it will be flight test time!

Decalcomania,
(or stamps, water slides, placards, stripes and other markings)

ANA is also North American Aviation, but is shown in the arrangement that it appears in their official corporate logo:

Lopes Hope 3rd
Lopes Hope 3rd
A rubber stamp was used to mark the part number on this tubing, identifying it as “ line assembly-combat- fuel pressure system right”.  104 is a part number prefix identifying a part first used on a “B” model. 103 would be “C” model, but because B and C model Mustangs for the most part differed only in which location they were built, many parts were used on both.

A rubber stamp was used to mark the part number on this tubing, identifying it as “ line assembly-combat- fuel pressure system right”.  104 is a part number prefix identifying a part first used on a “B” model. 103 would be “C” model, but because B and C model Mustangs for the most part differed only in which location they were built, many parts were used on both.

109-47896 is the part number of the tube assembly, front crankcase breather.  

109-47896 is the part number of the tube assembly, front crankcase breather.  

Normally we see a 109 prefix on a part number for an earlyD model.  There was Tech Order TO 01-60JD-37 for C models produced before 43-24902 mandating a change in oil breather systems.  43-24902 and subsequent serial numbers (like our restoration airframe 43-24907, 5 airplanes later) got the new version on the assembly line. That explains the part number puzzle.  Late Cs and early D models were often on the factory floor at the same time in 1944.  It also explains why our restoration doesn’t have an oil breather hole on the right side as the original Lope’s Hope 3rd had. The TO changed from two outlets to one.

Lopes Hope 3rd

Here is a clip from TO 01-60JD-37 that shows the reason for the change and the serial numbers it applies to.

Squadron Markings and Insignia

Cockpit

The airspeed indicator shows the red line for the never exceed velocity, the yellow arc is the cautionary range and the green line is the upper end of the normal operating range for this airplane.

The airspeed indicator shows the red line for the never exceed velocity, the yellow arc is the cautionary range and the green line is the upper end of the normal operating range for this airplane.

The upper gauge is the tachometer with the rpm redline and green normal operating range. The lower gauge is a three in one affair with oil temperature across the top and oil pressure on the bottom left, fuel pressure bottom right.  

The upper gauge is the tachometer with the rpm redline and green normal operating range. The lower gauge is a three in one affair with oil temperature across the top and oil pressure on the bottom left, fuel pressure bottom right.  

Controls

The Big Move to the Hangar

Finally it was time to move Lope’s Hope 3rd out to our hangar for her final assembly.  This is a great sign that the test flight isn’t too far off.

The wing is now also safe on the hangar floor.

The wing is now also safe on the hangar floor.

Both major parts of Lope’s Hope 3rd are reunited and ready to be assembled for the final time.

Both major parts of Lope’s Hope 3rd are reunited and ready to be assembled for the final time.

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June/July Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legend Museum’s
by Chuck Cravens

Lope’s Hope 3rd sits ready for a visit by Dr. Donald Lopez, Jr. & Laura Lopez

Lope’s Hope 3rd sits ready for a visit by Dr. Donald Lopez, Jr. & Laura Lopez

Update...

The restoration is nearing completion as you will see in this month’s update. Many more visually interesting operations happen near the end, so this time there are many photos.  We will begin with a visit by some special folks who made a trip to see Lope’s Hope 3rd andmeet the restoration team and owners of this P-51C.

Distinguished Visitors

Donald Lopez’s son and granddaughter, Dr. Donald Lopez, Jr. and Laura Lopez, came all the way to AirCorps in Bemidji to take a look at the P-51C being restored in Donald’s honor. 

They were able to see another P-51, a “D” model fly when Texas Flying Legends’ Bruce Eames and Warren Pietsch departed after the visit.

(L-R)Warren Pietsch of Texas Flying Legends Museum, Laura Lopez, Bruce Eames of Texas Flying Legends Museum, and Dr. Donald Lopez Jr. together in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd in the AirCorps restoration shop.

(L-R)Warren Pietsch of Texas Flying Legends Museum, Laura Lopez, Bruce Eames of Texas Flying Legends Museum, and Dr. Donald Lopez Jr. together in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd in the AirCorps restoration shop.

Dr. Lopez looks right at home in the P-51C!

Dr. Lopez looks right at home in the P-51C!

Laura experiences what her grandfather felt and saw in the cockpit of Lope’s Hope 3rd.

Laura experiences what her grandfather felt and saw in the cockpit of Lope’s Hope 3rd.

Cockpit

A great deal of finish work and equipment installation in the cockpit was accomplished this month.

Fairings

Randy Carlson of Carlson Metal Shaping helped us out on the various fillets.  He is a specialist in the complex forming of these tightly compound curved pieces.

Gun Bays

Without guns it isn’t a fighter, some say, so work on the replica gun installations was an important part of this month’s restoration effort.

Wheel Wells

Plumbing for hydraulics and running electrical wiring went along with the installation of various system components in the gear wells.

Firewall Forward

Control Systems

The Engine Runs!

Out at the hangar, the V-1650-7 Merlin has been mounted on a truck and test run. This truck belongs to Pat Harker and this is the first time we have had the luxury of running the engine before installing it permanently in a P-51.

 

Paint

One of the last steps before sending the fuselage and wing out to our hangar for final assembly is the paint process.

May/June Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends' Museum
by Chuck Cravens

Lope's Hope 3rd

Update

It is an exciting time in the restoration of Lope’s Hope 3rd. As we showed in the last update, the wings have arrived.  The wings and fuselage were joined this month to finalize all the fitting.  After mating the two major assemblies, many control runs, plumbing, and hydraulic lines were run in order to prepare toseparate the wing and fuselage and truck them to the hangar for the final assembly later on.

Mounting the Fuselage on the Wing

Work on the Controls, Plumbing, and Wiring

Mark examines the jack point. Here another difference between the B and C models and the later Ds is visible.  The photo shows the two gun ports in each wing of the C model instead of the more familiar P-51Ds with three guns in each wing.

Mark examines the jack point. Here another difference between the B and C models and the later Ds is visible.  The photo shows the two gun ports in each wing of the C model instead of the more familiar P-51Ds with three guns in each wing.

Polishing, Fairings, and Skin Work

April/ May Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends' 
by Chuck Cravens

Lope's Hope
The guys guide the trailer into the shop to unload the wing.

The guys guide the trailer into the shop to unload the wing.

Update

The big news for the Lope’s Hope 3rd project this month is that the wings have been completed by Odegaard Wings. They have been transported to Bemidji and work will begin on installing landing gear and other equipment. The next step will be fitting them to the fuselage, finishing the wing to fuselage fairings, and eventually disassembling the wing and fuselage to be transported out to our hangar for the final assembly.

The gun bay was finished up at Odegaard’s before shipping.

The gun bay was finished up at Odegaard’s before shipping.

The casting painted green is the slanted gun mount found in the B and C models. Slanting the guns caused some feeding jams and Donald Lopez experienced that twice in Lope’s Hope 3rd after lining up for a clean air-to-air shot at the enemy.

The center rib and fuel tank bay show clearly in this image before the wings left North Dakota.

The center rib and fuel tank bay show clearly in this image before the wings left North Dakota.

The wing looks ready for transport!

The wing looks ready for transport!

Moving, loading, and unloading an assembly as large as a complete wing requires a great deal of care and planning. The arrival of the wing at AirCorps Aviation is a major milestone in the progress of the Lope’s Hope 3rd restoration, so all that care was worth it!

Everyone watches to be sure there is enough clearance.

Everyone watches to be sure there is enough clearance.

The legs on the fixture needed to be adjusted to clear the forklift tires.

The legs on the fixture needed to be adjusted to clear the forklift tires.

The work is finished and the wing is all set for installation of landing gear and other equipment.

The work is finished and the wing is all set for installation of landing gear and other equipment.

Feb/Mar Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends
by Chuck Cravens

Lope's Hope Update
An angle from below gives us a different perspective on the electrical work.

An angle from below gives us a different perspective on the electrical work.

Update

Last month’s cover showed Aaron making up wiring harnesses and inside were other photos of him wiring up the pilot’s main switch box.  This month those harnesses were put to use as Aaron began the meticulous and exacting job of wiring the Mustang’s cockpit.

Wiring

The wire used for this restoration is identical to that used for one of our previous Mustang, Sierra Sue II. Both Mustangs were actually produced the same year, even though the serial numbers begin one year apart. I described the wire in my book on that restoration as follows:

Properly restoring the wiring in the airframe required duplicating wire used in 1944. The wire used then was insulated with black rubber and wound with cotton string.  It was then lacquered and a logo applied.  Like anything else, the current generation of available wiring is differently made and labeled.  To be true as possible to 1944, wire with black silicon insulation was custom-made by Allied Wire and cable of Pewaukee, Wisconsin.  Ordinary rubber insulation is no longer allowed by FAA specifications. The custom wire was then wrapped with cotton string like the original stuff by Narragansett Reproductions of Wood River Junction, Rhode Island.

Erik Trueblood at AirCorps Aviation researched the logo right down to the exact font used back then. A period Kingsley wire stamping machine was found complete with several type cases containing different sizes of the correct period type. Different sizes were used on different wire gauges.1

1.       Chuck Cravens  Combat Vet P-51, the History of Sierra Sue II, World War Two Survivor, (Edina, Minnesota, Beaver’s Pond Press, 2015), 69
Aaron is looking over the job ahead of him. The yellow object in front of Aaron is a heat gun.

Aaron is looking over the job ahead of him. The yellow object in front of Aaron is a heat gun.

The view of the right hand side of the cockpit shows the circuit breaker box opened up. The mask we show being made later in the report is for this box.

The view of the right hand side of the cockpit shows the circuit breaker box opened up. The mask we show being made later in the report is for this box.

Here the pilot’s main switch box is open as well.

Here the pilot’s main switch box is open as well.

This tight view lets us see the many connections that have to be neatly and securely made in just these two boxes in order to have a reliable electrical system.

This tight view lets us see the many connections that have to be neatly and securely made in just these two boxes in order to have a reliable electrical system.

Art

The various electrical components need art and graphics work to be accurate.

In this case it says “RH FLOUR.” And the word “LIGHT” will be unmasked as well.  It stands for “right hand flourescent light” and is a label on the circuit breaker box cover on the right side of the cockpit.  It identifies a rheostat that controls the intensity of ultraviolet cockpit interior lighting.

Here is a view up through the tail wheel bay.

Here is a view up through the tail wheel bay.

You can see the rudder control cable alongside and above the large tail wheel casting. The two small orange projections from the green casting are Zerk fittings painted orange.  North American did this to help crewmen find the fittings and to help avoid missing individual grease fittings as the P-51s were serviced in the field.

The main gear are actually the second set we have made for Lope’s Hope 3rd.  The first set were pressed into service when Little Horse, a P-51D also owned by Texas Flying Legends Museum, was being serviced at AirCorps.  Inspection showed a crack in the pivot shaft and some wear issues.  Little Horse flew out with nicely restored gear that day and left the ones removed from her at our hangar.

Since P-51C and D model main gear are interchangeable and both Mustangs have the same owner, we began restoring the former Little Horse gear for Lope’s Hope 3rd.

Clyde works on the pivot end of the main gear.

Clyde works on the pivot end of the main gear.

Clyde tightens a bolt on the pivot shaft end of the main gear.

Clyde tightens a bolt on the pivot shaft end of the main gear.

Wings

The wings for Lope’s Hope 3rd are nearing completion at Odegaard wings.

The parts of the wing assembly remaining to be finished are: assembling the Station 0 rib, the spade doors, and  finish the gun bay ribs installation. Then the wings will be removed from the  jig, the two halves bolted together, and the flaps, ailerons and wing tips will be fitted. 

Once those tasks are completed, the joined wings will be shipped by truck to AirCorps and mated with the fuselage.

Colin has the wing extension panels completed and he is now drilling mounting holes to size.

Colin has the wing extension panels completed and he is now drilling mounting holes to size.

Jan/Feb Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends
By Chuck Cravens

Texas Flying Legends
Aaron is working hard on soldering up the components for wiring harnesses.

Aaron is working hard on soldering up the components for wiring harnesses.

Update...

The restoration pace has picked up a bit on Lope’s Hope 3rd.  The wings are progressing nicely. Mark Tisler was over at Odegaard Wings to help with the process and sent some photos.  

Mark reports: “Gun bay ribs and miscellaneous rivets need to be finished. The next major project is building wing extensions, which take about 2 weeks each. Then we will fit the wing tips, ailerons and flaps. The spade doors are also under way, and take approximately 2 weeks to complete.”  

The parts that will be used to assemble the wing completely and mate it to the fuselage were completed or refurbished, then inspected and painted.

A small milestone was reached when wiring was begun for the cockpit.

When work on wiring begins, it signals that the restoration is in its late phases.

Wiring

Cockpit Enclosure

I know that cockpit enclosure images have been included in several past updates, but that is indicative of what a painstaking procedure it is to make the the “greenhouse” function perfectly.

Wing Parts

Parts that are used to connect surface controls and landing gear locks were the main focus of organizational efforts to prepare for the arrival of the wings.

The two pushrods on the right connect the gear lock actuator torque tube to the landing gear retracted  position hook.

The two pushrods on the right connect the gear lock actuator torque tube to the landing gear retracted  position hook.

When a part number begins with the numeric prefix “73”, it dates back unchanged to the NA-73 prototype and first production run created for the British, two of which were delivered the USAAF.  The US designation was P-51X, the British called them Mustang Mark I.  The Mustang name caught on and even though the USAAF made attempts to use another name designation for P-51s, the name Mustang became  universally used.

This is one end of the aileron torque tube assembly. The top of the large casting bolts to the control stick. The bare aluminum rod inside the tube is the elevator control stick connecting tube.

This is one end of the aileron torque tube assembly.

The top of the large casting bolts to the control stick. The bare aluminum rod inside the tube is the elevator control stick connecting tube.

Wings

The wings are nearing completion and are almost ready for the wing extensions (or tip sections).

Dec/Jan Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

 
Texas Flying Legends
by Chuck Cravens

This photo of the right wing gives us a good view of the gun bay.

This photo of the right wing gives us a good view of the gun bay.

Update

The December/January update will be brief because most of the progress on Lope’s Hope 3rd this month happened at Odegaard Wings. The fine folks there sent some images of the wings.  In the meantime,  at AirCorps, the time consuming work on the windows moves forward. 

The left side looks to be at the same stage of completion.

The left side looks to be at the same stage of completion.

More rivets remain to be installed in the bottom of the wings than the top.

More rivets remain to be installed in the bottom of the wings than the top.

The narrow strip of skin that will go in the open area is left off to allow rivet access.  It is the last piece of skin to go on and is riveted from the tip end toward the root end.  It can be gently bent up to reach the backside of the rivets when it is installed permanently.   The last few rivets can be accessed from the gun bay.

One of the more complex areas of the wing are the landing gear bays, this one is on the left.

One of the more complex areas of the wing are the landing gear bays, this one is on the left.

A view of the right side gear well is a mirror image .

A view of the right side gear well is a mirror image .

Almost all of the bottom of the right wing shows in this image.

Almost all of the bottom of the right wing shows in this image.

“D” window on the bench , it’s masked to prevent scratches as it is worked on.

“D” window on the bench , it’s masked to prevent scratches as it is worked on.

Cockpit Enclosure Continued

The frame is clecoed together with the plexiglass in the channel of the frames.  Once it is riveted together permanently, the final step is to apply a special sealant to the edge of the frame where it meets the plexiglass. 

There was a Technical Order regarding these “D” windows on the P-51Bs and Cs “to reduce the possibility of the loss of the cockpit enclosure rear panels in flight.” The fix was new and stronger rear panel attaching springs. 

Tech Order No. 01-60JD-39 appears below.  Neither the original Lope’s Hope 3rd, serial number 42-103585, or our restoration airframe, 43-24907, needed the modification because they were either modified at the factory before they were delivered or the change in parts reached the line before their ‘D’ windows were installed.

Lope's Hope
Lope's Hope

Nov/Dec Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2017

Texas Flying Legends
by Chuck Cravens

Texas Flying Legends
Ryan has been working on the dorsal fin, restoring it to  flawless condition. Some of the fillets around the empennage were  formed and installed as well.

Ryan has been working on the dorsal fin, restoring it to  flawless condition. Some of the fillets around the empennage were  formed and installed as well.

Update:

This month found us waiting for Lope’s Hope 3rd’s wings to be completed and shipped, so the crew spent most of their time on the P-47. That will make this a very brief update.

Radio Frequency Card:

However a few items were taken care of and we found an interesting image of a radio call card. The period that Captain Lopez was flying P-51Cs was in the fall of 1944. Specifically, he operated from Kweilin in early September, Chihkiang in late September and all of October, and finally in November, Chihkiang, Luliang, and Kunming.  His last combat mission was November 11, 1944, as we mentioned in last month’s update.

Lope's Hope 3rd
The last of the radio boxes were painted this month

The last of the radio boxes were painted this month

Our final image shows a radio box cover in its new paint.

Our final image shows a radio box cover in its new paint.

As mentioned earlier, Captain Lopez flew his last combat missions on November 11, 1944;  these were his 100th and 101st missions.  The morning mission was also when his fifth and last combat victory occurred, making him an ace.  He shot down a Nakajima Type KI-84 Hayate.  Hayate means “gale” in Japanese, but this type was called a “Frank” by the Allies for reporting sightings and combat.

The Nakajima KI-84 Hayate or Frank was considered one of the best Japanese fighters of the war. It was the fastest fighter in the Japanese military that was available in quantity in 1944.

The Nakajima KI-84 Hayate or Frank was considered one of the best Japanese fighters of the war. It was the fastest fighter in the Japanese military that was available in quantity in 1944.

Oct/ Nov Lope's Hope 3rd Update 2016

Texas Flying Legends
by Chuck Cravens

Texas Flying Legends
Veterans sitin front of Lope’s Hope 3rd celebrating Veterans’ Day at the AirCorps Aviation restoration shop.

Veterans sitin front of Lope’s Hope 3rd celebrating Veterans’ Day at the AirCorps Aviation restoration shop.

Captain Donald Lopez’s last combat missions: November 11, 1944 (Armistice Day)

The origin of what we now call Veteran’s Day was celebrated on the date the Great War ended, now of course, called World War One.  It was a date, then as now, set aside to remember and honor veterans. The armistice that ended the fighting in the Great War occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918.  

Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word “Armistice” and inserting in its place the word “Veterans.” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
— 1. US Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Public Affairs, http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp, downloaded November 15, 2016

Veterans Day is still celebrated on November 11 so in this update, covering late October through early November, it seems fitting to recount Donald Lopez’s last two combat missions, flown on Armistice Day 1944.

The morning of November 11th, 1944 was clear and cool on the 75th fighter squadron’s base at Chihkiang, China.  The squadrons had been pushed back to Chihkiang by a recent Japanese ground offensive. 

Their primitive but effective warning network told them there were enemy planes in the air near their former airfields at Hengyang, Lingling, and Kweilin.

Group operations decided to send up 16 fighters to look for them. Captain Donald Lopez led one flight of eightin his recently painted P-51C, Lope’s Hope 3rd. Donald’s wingman had to turn back with a canopy problem halfway to the target, leaving seven Mustangs.

It was his 100th combat mission and was supposed to be Captain Lopez’s last, but it didn’t turn out that way.

The other flight of eight was led by Captain Stanley Kelley, a recent arrival who had prior ETO combat experience.  Lopez headed for Lingling and Kelley to Hengyang.

Japanese planes weren’t in the immediate Lingling area where they went first, so Captain Lopez turned toward Kweilin.  Right after the course change, Lopez heardKelley get on the radio and call him: “We found ‘em. They’re at Hengyang. Come on up here!” and he altered heading to go and help over Henyang. It was a thirty minute flight to Hengyang, even at nearly full throttle.

Once at HengyangCaptain Lopez’s flight circled, looking for other aircraft. Fifteen Japanese planes were spotted several thousand feet below, flying toward Lopez’s flight.  

The P-51s dove on them and Donald picked one out to attack. It waslater identified as a Nakajima K -84 “Frank” but heinitially recorded it as a Zero in his log book.  He saw strikes on the engine as he fired at the unaware Japanese fighter.  Heavy smoke poured out and Lopez claimed it as a probable victory after losing sight of his quarry. Another member of his flight had a probable claim. Both victories were later confirmed. Donald’s victory was his last of a wartime total of five and qualified Captain Lopez as an ace.

One of the characteristics of the C and B model P-51s became an issue as he lined up on another enemy.  His guns all jammed as he began firing and his chance at another victory was lost.  This was a common occurrence during heavy maneuvering in Bs and Cs, probably due to the tilted guns.  The later D models rectified this problem by mounting the guns upright. Contrary to some opinions, it wasn’t necessary to make the wings thicker to accomplish this on the D model. 

Kelley’s flight was already back at Chihkiang when Lopez landed.  His flight had been surprised by a mixed group of Oscars, Tojos, and Franks. They lost four Mustangs in the fight and claimed four enemies shot down with two probables.  Those two probables were also confirmed by Chinese intelligence for a total of nine enemies shot down on the mission.  Three of the four lost 75th squadron pilots shot down on November 11, 1944 survived. One was taken prisoner and the other two made it back to the squadron.  All three survived the war.

Image of Donald Lopez’s actual WWII log book, courtesy of Laura Lopez.

Image of Donald Lopez’s actual WWII log book, courtesy of Laura Lopez.

Both flights refueled and rearmed and headed back to Hengyang with 12 Mustangs.  No more enemy activity was found.   

This second November 11th mission made 101 for Captain Donald Lopez and it was his final combat mission of World War Two.  Some pilots had been lost after over 100 missions in the CBI and at this point in the war, replacement plots were not in short supply, so CBI pilots were supposed to fly no more than 100 combat missions.

Lope’s Hope 3rd is in the restoration facility with Ryan looking over the cockpit area.

Lope’s Hope 3rd is in the restoration facility with Ryan looking over the cockpit area.

Veteran’s Day Event Photo World War Two B-24 navigator, Jerry Sveen with WASP re-enactor and presenter Dani Hemmingsen pose in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd.

Veteran’s Day Event Photo

World War Two B-24 navigator, Jerry Sveen with WASP re-enactor and presenter Dani Hemmingsen pose in front of Lope’s Hope 3rd.

Texas Flying Legends Museum's Lope’s Hope 3rd Update November and early December 2015

November and early December was a time to finalize fabrication and assembly of some of the fuselage of this Texas Flying Legends Museum's P-51C project  in preparation for interior painting.

Machined form for top rearfuselage skin. It is seven and a half feet long!

Machined form for top rearfuselage skin. It is seven and a half feet long!

The cockpit interior is being finished to the point where it can be disassembled for painting. That involves test fitting equipment like the radio control boxes and making and fitting the windscreen and side windows .windows

Equipment is out.  This is the bomb release pulley bracket ( 102-63094 bracket, rack control, fuse.) station 85 1/4 upper pulley.

Equipment is out.  This is the bomb release pulley bracket ( 102-63094 bracket, rack control, fuse.) station 85 1/4 upper pulley.

Robb fine tuning the shape of the "D" window.

Robb fine tuning the shape of the "D" window.

TFLM's Lope's Hope 3rd's  cockpit area with all controls removed for painting.

TFLM's Lope's Hope 3rd's  cockpit area with all controls removed for painting.

Robb checks the fit in the fuselage opening.

Robb checks the fit in the fuselage opening.

On the lower part of the fuselage, substantial progress has been made on the scoop area.  The exit duct frame members are complete and inner and outer skins are made and clecoed on, nearly ready for final riveting.  Mark fitted and permanently installed the tail gear in the rear section. The doghouse and exit door are also coming together.

Mark trimming doghouse skin to fit.

Mark trimming doghouse skin to fit.

Exit door and duct.

Exit door and duct.

Scoop

Scoop

The cowl skins and formers have been fabricated and assembled.

Firewall forward skin fitting

Firewall forward skin fitting

That made it possible to tear down the completed firewall and the forward frames, skins and engine mounts in preparation for the zinc chromate application.

It is always nice to see the more visible progress once tooling is done and parts are made.

Speaking of visible progress, we were sent photos of progress on the wings by Brent at Odegaard Wings.

Wing frame coming together.

Wing frame coming together.

Leading edge

Leading edge

Another view of the stress door area.

Another view of the stress door area.

Ribs ready to go in.

Ribs ready to go in.

That's it for the November /December update but the January one should be our in early February if not late January.