Ultimate Warbird Flights Unveils “Jersey Jerk”

Former Australian P-51 Mustang becomes "Jersey Jerk" for Ultimate Warbird Flights

Photo via Ultimate Warbird Flights
Aircorps Art Dec 2019


On a cold English morning, Ultimate Warbird Flights, the exclusive Spitfire and warbird flight operators located at Sywell Aerodrome in Northampton, unveiled the new paint scheme of the former Australia-based two-seat Mustang VH-MFT. P-51 Mustang “Jersey Jerk” was the mount of Major Donald A. Strait of the 356th Fighter Group, paying homage to his home state of New Jersey.

Being one of the few pilots in his class to be designated as a fighter pilot, Strait was assigned to the 356th Fighter Group, flying a P-47 Thunderbolt. He trained in Massachusetts and then shipped out for England in late 1943. Photo via American Air Museum in Britain (P-51 pictured above)

This Mustang identity was originally built in Melbourne, Australia under license by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) as CA-18 Mk.21, construction number 1435, with the serial A68-110. Delivered in 1948, it spent most of its RAAF life in store, before being ‘sold for scrap’ in 1957. More information is available at this link.

Photo via Ultimate Warbird Flights
 

Decades later, the identity reappeared for a composite restoration project via Fort Lauderdale, Florida, according to Geoff Goodall’s research, and was shipped to Australia, arriving at Caboolture, Queensland in May 1995. In 1997, it was registered as VH-MFT and restored to airworthy status, with a first flight coming on 24 January 2002 from its home base at Caboolture, configured with full dual controls for the passenger seat, known as TF-51D configuration. Operating for the following two decades as a joy-flying machine, it was sold in 2020, and recently sold again.

During WWII, Major Donald Strait was assigned to the 361st Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group, 8th USAAF. During his two combat tours, Strait flew 122 missions scoring 13.5 victories, making him the 356th FG’s top ace. 10.5 victories were scored in a P-51 Mustang.  In late 1944, he became the commanding officer of the 361st FS. After WWII, he joined the New Jersey Air National Guard and became a Squadron Commander and Wing Commander. His other achievements were graduating Air War College and becoming Deputy Assistant Secretary of the AF Reserve and ROTC Affairs, and he retired as a Major General in 1978. He was decorated 9 times and the final honor was induction into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame
Donald J. Strait, Major General U. S. Air Force. Photo via American Air Museum in Britain

Despite his many accomplishments, General Strait’s memory focused on the men he served with during World War II, and it is their memory he honored through his support of the American Air Museum in Britain. “I supported the Museum even before the first spade of soil was turned. I have visited Duxford almost yearly. And I make sure I contribute every year. I do so because the 8th Air Force conducted the most important air operation in history, and we lost 30,000 men doing it. We need to keep their memory alive.”

Ultimate Warbird Flights is the longest-standing supplier of Spitfire flights, having been in operation since 1985. The company is also the only UK operator of a two-seat, dual-control, P-51 Mustang and the world’s only operator of a two-seat, dual-control, ME109. For more information visit www.warbirdflights.co.uk

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