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North American XP-51 Prototype #4 – NX51NA

The North American P-51 Mustang was the most successful, most versatile fighter of World War II (1939-1945). Designed in 1940 for Britain, the first prototype XP-51 was finished in just 117 days. The Allison-powered P-51A was dubbed “Mustang, Mk. 1” by the British and first deployed in tactical reconnaissance in the spring of 1942. The U.S. Army’s Eighth Air Force received its first P-51s (B models) in 1943.

The familiar P-51D, with its bubble canopy and Rolls-Royce “Merlin” engine, appeared in 1944 and became the major production version (7,956 built). The Mustang dominated the skies over Europe, mainly as a long-range escort for Allied bombers. During World War II, P-51s carried out more 213,000 missions in all theaters of war, destroying 4,950 enemy aircraft—nearly half of the total losses suffered by the enemy.

U.S. Air Force Mustangs served with distinction in the Korean Conflict (1950-53). In all, Mustangs have served the air forces of more than 50 other countries. Today, the P-51 is a popular air show performer and air racer.

The EAA Museum’s XP-51 was the last of the four prototypes built by North American Aircraft in 1940, and the first P-51 delivered to the US Army Air Forces. XP-51 #4 was acquired by the EAA after years in storage at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. It was completely restored in 1975-76. It flew in the Oshkosh air show from 1976 until its retirement in late 1982.

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