- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

HARRISON, Ark. (AP) - It’s not unusual for travelers to stop in Harrison to refuel and relax. It is a bit unusual when one of those travelers is flying a plane that helped win World War II.

Terry Sonday, a Houston, Texas, aviation enthusiast, recently made a stop at the Boone County Airport en route to Galesburg, Illinois. Sonday was in the cockpit of a 1945 P-51 Mustang fighter plane, a key aircraft in the battle for supremacy of the skies over Europe during the war, the Harrison Daily Times (https://bit.ly/1G16l0M ) reported.

Harrison was halfway on his journey to the National Stearman Convention, a gathering of restoration and preservation enthusiasts.

“They’re a national treasure,” Sonday said, his Mustang parked just a few yards behind him in the hangar.

Sonday went on to say that only about 150 Mustangs still survive. Of those, 30 are in museums and 30 are currently being restored. The rest, like his, are still being flown.

Sonday’s Mustang, which he has owned for about six months, was built during the last days of World War II and didn’t see any combat, but it is identical to the fighters that served admirably as escorts for bombers during the war.

The plane is powered by a 1,500 horsepower engine and has a cruising speed of 300 mph (505 in a dive, according to Sonday). The .50 caliber machine guns are still visible on the wings.

Sonday has been interested in the Mustang for about two years and in military planes for much longer. He learned of his plane while at the Reno Air Races.

“I looked at a couple of Mustangs,” he said. “One became available.”

Stenciled onto the side of the plane is the name of the original pilot, Col. E.H. Beverly. Sonday never got the chance to talk with Beverly, who has passed away, but he has spoken with other pilots who flew Mustangs during the war.

The Mustang has a reputation for being difficult to fly, Sonday said, but any plane (or vehicle, for that matter) might seem hard to handle at first.

“It’s demanding,” Sonday acknowledged, indicating the parked Mustang, “but as long as you stay on top of it, you’ll be all right.”

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Information from: Harrison Daily Times, https://www.harrisondaily.com


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