By Nigel Hitchman

Today August 25, 2023, P-51 Mustang G-CLNV was flown at Sywell Aerodrome for the first time after an extensive restoration by Air Leasing. The pilot for the first flight was well-known warbird test pilot Pete Kynsey, who carried out three flights in it today, including the official CAA air test. Paperwork permitting the aircraft will be delivered to its owner ‘W Air Collection’ at La Ferte Alais, France next week.

Constructed in 1945 as a P-51D-25-NT by North American at the Dallas, plant in Texas, USA, the Mustang was taken on strength with the United States Army Air Force with serial number 45-11518. Right after its delivery the Mustang was delivered to the Royal New Zealand Air Force with serial number NZ2427.

Following many years of storage in New Zealand, the aircraft was restored to flying condition by Maurice Hammond in Suffolk, between 1997 and 2001, with a first flight on July 14, 2001, as ‘Janie’. Operated for many years, it suffered a crash at Maurice’s home base of Hardwick on October 2, 2016. The wing and other structures were completely rebuilt by Air Leasing at Sywell and a new dual control fuselage was obtained in the United States, fitted with the original restored tailcone and other components. It is expected to make its airshow debut at Melun-Villaroche in a couple of weeks.

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Air Leasing Ltd, UK is run by Richard Grace and team at Sywell aerodrome, Northamptonshire U.K., looking after several warbird collections and carrying out major restorations such as the recently completed Hawker Tempest, Spitfire RM927, four of the Buchóns from the Battle of Britain film, David Arnold’s Seafire III and many others. They also run the ‘Ultimate Warbirds’ rides business including the Grace Spitfire, ML407, originally restored by Richard’s late father Nick, who started the business which was carried on by his wife Carolyn and greatly expanded when Richard took over several years ago.