- Associated Press - Sunday, December 20, 2015

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. (AP) - Some pilots say flying a P-51 Mustang is like nothing else.

Paul Crawford, 91, flew a Mustang as a fighter pilot in 29 missions over China in World War II.

“There’s nothing in the world like that airplane,” said Crawford, who was a part of Claire Chennault’s “Flying Tigers.”

Crawford was shot down in 1945, hiked 200 miles through Japanese-held territory and came back alive, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (https://on-ajc.com/1mc7NtB).

But he hadn’t flown a Mustang since then. Until last week.

Crawford went aloft in a restored P-51D Mustang. He took off from Falcon Field Atlanta Regional Airport on Tuesday, and tooled around for about a half hour.

His pilot was Al Armstrong, a Navy captain and a member of the Dixie Wing of the Commemorative Air Force.

The Commemorative Air Force is a nonprofit organization dedicated to flying and restoring World War II aircraft, the Atlanta newspaper reported. Based in Dallas, Texas, the group has more than 12,500 members and operates a fleet of more than 160 World War II aircraft.

Six of those aircraft are at the Peachtree City airport, and one of them is a P-51D Mustang. Back in World War II Crawford flew a one-seater, but the P-51D is a modified two-seater aircraft, with a front and back seat and dual controls.

“It has an extra stick in the back,” Crawford told the Journal-Constitution.

Armstrong took off at a steep angle and treated Crawford to some aerobatics, including barrel rolls, a chandelle and some inverted flying.

“I loved that part of it,” said Crawford, still exhilarated, as he ate lunch after the flight. Sitting in the back seat isn’t quite the same, he said, “but it’s still a Mustang.”

The Commemorative Air Force considers itself “a flying museum,” dedicated to teaching the next generation about aviation history through ride-alongs and other experiences.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, https://www.ajc.com

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