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The History of Ferocious Frankie

Image © Paul Johnson

Image © Paul Johnson

The P-51 was the most successful long-range fighter escort of World War II, but it was not an instant success. Designed for the British in only 120 days to meet their requirement to purchase more fighters, the first Mustangs were built with Allison engines; while remarkable at low altitudes, these variants were considered under-powered and disappointing at higher altitudes. Happily, in late 1942 the aircraft was transformed when, in the UK, Rolls Royce Merlin engines were tested in place of the Allison. The Merlin, as used in the Spitfire, was then license-built by Packard in the USA and in 1943 was installed in the P-51B & C models. This near perfect marriage of engine and platform made the 1944 P-51D, with its bubble canopy and six-guns, one of the most iconic and potent fighters of all time.

The P-51D’s range was an incredible 2,055m (3,327km), thanks to its huge fuel capacity of 1,000 litres internally and 815 litres in drop tanks. Equally impressive was a level maximum speed of 437mph (703kph) at 25,000 feet, a max diving speed of 505mph (818kph) and a service ceiling of 41,900 feet (12,800m).

The OFMC Mustang was built at the North American Aviation Factory at Inglewood, California and accepted by the USAAF on 27/02/1945. One month later it was sent to the 8th Air Force, via Newark and Liverpool docks, serving at Leiston in Suffolk among other stations. The aircraft stayed in England for only 11 months before returning to Newark in January 1946. Briefly kept in storage, in January 1947 it was sent to the Royal Canadian Air Force, operating from Suffield, Alberta. In 1953 with only total 433 flying hours it was completely overhauled in Winnipeg and with only an additional 81 hours time thereafter, was put into outside storage in Carberry Manitoba. Happily, in 1957, it was sold into private hands and registered as N6340T. The aircraft was bought for $5,400 in 1962 with a total of 511 airframe hours. Flying in the Unlimited Race at Reno in 1974, the effectively stock (original) aircraft finished second with an average speed of 384mph.

In April 1980 the aircraft flew across the Atlantic to new owners, The Fighter Collection. Re-sprayed, it became known as Candyman / Moose, with the name on one side of the fuselage and the Moose’s head on the other. The Mustang was first displayed in the UK at Biggin Hill in 1981, flown by Ray Hanna, the OFMC’s founder.

In 1989, after filming in ‘Memphis Belle’, the aircraft was given a complete overhaul by The Fighter Collection at Duxford. The airframe was remarkably free of corrosion and damage, but a full strip down and component overhaul was undertaken. An overhauled original flying panel was installed. The rear fuel tank in the fuselage was removed and a wartime style modification made to fit a ‘dickey’ seat. This ‘mod’ in 1944 allowed Eisenhower to survey the D-day beaches from the back of a Mustang. A special 1760hp Merlin engine currently powers the aircraft.

Aircraft Profile by Steven Atkin

Aircraft Profile by Steven Atkin

OFMC acquired the aircraft early in 1999 and it now carries the highly distinguishing colours of Wallace E. Hopkins, as “Ferocious Frankie”, named in honour of his wife Frankie, coded B7 H of the 374th Fighter Squadron, 361st Fighter Group. Wallace Hopkins was born in Washington, Georgia and flew a total of 76 combat missions with the 361st where he flew as Operations Officer. He was an ACE credited with 8 victories and 1.5 damaged. His decorations include the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross both with Oak Leaf Clusters and the French Croix de Guerre, one of four awarded to members of the 361st.