Issue Date: July 19, 1997
City: Dayton, OH
Printed By: Stamp Venturers
Printing Method: Photogravure
Color: Multicolored P-51 Originally built for Britain’s Royal Air Force, the North American P-51 emerged at the end of World War II as the finest all-around piston-engine fighter in service. Affectionately referred to as the Mustang, its nickname was a suitable choice – referring not only to the plane’s American beginnings, but also its untamed power. Although the basic design of the P-51 was sound, tests soon proved that the Mustang’s greatest disadvantage was its engine. In the RAF’s opinion it was “a bloody good airplane” needing only “a bit more poke.” Engineers on both sides of the Atlantic contemplated the problem, and eventually it was suggested that a Rolls Royce Merlin engine be installed – a modification which dramatically improved the P-51’s performance and revolutionized its potential. Able to fly long range, the Mustang could now reach beyond Berlin, as far as Austria and Czechoslovakia. Known for accompanying the B-17s on their longest raids, the P-51 was also employed as a fighter, fighter-bomber, dive-bomber, and reconnaissance aircraft. Following the war it continued to be used by numerous foreign countries, including France, China, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, and Israel. After 40 years of service, the Mustang was finally retired in 1983. Wright Model “B” Forever yearning to soar with the birds, man first became airborne in 1783. However, the fickle wind, not man, powered and controlled flight. Then, on December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers’ engine-driven, heavier-than-air Flyer lifted into the air and traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds. The Age of Flight had dawned. By modern standards, the Flyer was not impressive. Its double-tiered wings and frame were made of balsa, plywood, and fabric, wired together for rigidity. A 12-horsepower petrol engine, strapped to the platform beneath the wings, catapulted the contraption down a wooden monorail to become airborne. The pilot lay beside the engine and held on. The craft was primitive and unstable. It had no seats, no wheels, and no flaps to control lateral movement. Nonetheless, an engine had powered it into the air. Using a methodical scientific approach, the Wrights tackled these problems. Eventually they were able to improve stability and control, add seats and wheels, and most importantly, they could design more powerful engines. With each improvement, their aircraft set world speed, height, and distance records. In 1910, the potential of flight received official recognition when the U.S. Army purchased two Model “Bs” for pilot training.
Highly sophisticated supersonic jets are so awe-inspiring it is easy to forget that the great majority of aircraft, at least in America, are small, simple machines. William Thomas Piper was the first to manufacture airplanes for private use and is affectionately called “the Henry Ford of Aviation.” Since his small, economical two-seater Cub was introduced in 1929, many Americans have learned to fly. Today, more than a quarter of a million people own, and are licensed to fly, single- and twin-engine airplanes. Although the low-wing Cherokee replaced the high-wing Cub in the 1960s, overall features remained the same. Both have a minimum number of parts to simplify production and reduce costs. Both are powered by simple piston engines, have fixed landing gears, unpressurized cabins, and relatively simple instruments. The Cherokee’s 1,200 parts are assembled in sections by three men with pneumatic hand tools. They can assemble the fuselage and cabin superstructure in four hours. With a few more hours, they can attach the wings and tail, install the engine, and wire the instrument panel. Though “general aviation” aircraft are simple, they have all the system control features that larger aircraft do and can execute the full range of flying maneuvers.
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