'Stang Evil
A P-51 Photo Essay

Photos by
Brannan Johnson
Essay by Brannan Johnson and Buck Wyndham, Editor-In-Chief

In the warbird community, there are certain legendary airplanes that evoke an almost mystical quality. I don't mean the type of aircraft is legendary (although a P-51 Mustang certainly qualifies in that regard, too). I mean there are certain specific airplanes that, because they are rarely seen on a wide scale, tend to remain somewhat elusive in your mind. When you have a chance to see them, either in print or in person, they carry just a hint of something magical.

For me, Mike Bertz's P-51, called 'Stang Evil, is one such aircraft. Photographer and artist Brannon Johnson only accentuates the mystique with his amazing photos. We hope you enjoy them.  --Editor.

* * * * *

Mike Bertz has owned and flown his Mustang since 1968, and that alone ought to tell you something about the man. A retired Flight Surgeon in the Colorado Air National Guard, and now an anesthesiologist for a Children's Hospital, Mike has the distinction of being the longest continuous owner of a P-51 in the country, and possibly, the world. He also owns a Hunting Jet Provost and a Folland Gnat. That ought to tell you even more about him. He's also one of the nicest guys in the warbird community.

While growing up the son of a coal miner, Bertz used to watch P-51s fly over his home in Ohio. He fondly remembered the rich, throaty exhaust of the V-12 Merlin engine, and knew from then on that he needed one. Bertz soloed the Mustang with fewer than 500 hours total time.

With over 40 years of experience and 1,500 hours flying his P-51, Bertz has flown 37,000 feet over thunderstorms, experienced an engine failure, and tussled in aerial dogfights with Bob Hoover. The only thing he hasn't done, but wishes he had, is to fly the aircraft as the 20-year old fighter pilots did in WWII combat -- fully loaded, against live targets.

Bertz' aircraft was built in July 1945, and was one of the last 200 D-Models produced. After the war, it saw service with the Colorado Air National Guard in the 120th Fighter Squadron at Buckley Field in 1949, and with the 140th Fighter-Bomber Wing in 1950. Bertz purchased it from a private owner while in college for the amazing sum of $13,500.  It is now based at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Jefferson County, Colorado. It is painted in the colors of the 335th Fighter Squadron flying out of Debden, England in 1944.

 


Thanks to Brannan Johnson for his stunning warbird photography.
Thanks to Mike Bertz for his kindness in facilitating this photo shoot.


 

 


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