Home | Airshows | The Hangar | Nostalgia | Links

Mustang P-51D-20 44-63864 'Twilight Tear'
78th FG trio - time warp!

This aircraft was built at North American Aviation's factory in California late in 1944 before being delivered to the USAAF in the December. Early in 1945 the fighter was shipped to the UK to join the Eighth Air Force's Duxford-based 78th Fighter Group - one of 60 brand new P-51 Mustangs delivered as replacements for the Group's P-47s.

44-63864 was assigned to Lt Hubert "Bill" Davis who called it 'Twilight Tear' and flew the bulk of his 35 combat missions in it, scoring three aerial victories and one damaged. 'Twilight Tear' remained at Duxford until the end of the war and was then flown to Speke, near Liverpool in July 1945 where she was handed over to the American Assembly Unit Number One for storage. In the late 1940s, the Swedish government purchased a number of surplus Mustangs from the USAAF to equip the Flygvapnet (Swedish Air Force) and 'Twilight Tear' was one purchased and ferried to Sweden via Scotland. She stayed with the Flygvapnet until 1953 when the Mustangs were phased out. Once more, 'Twilight Tear' was up for sale and this time was purchased by Henry Wallenburg and Co and ferried to Israel, via Athens and Rome.
Upon arrival in the Middle East, the Mustang was allocated a new identity and served with the Israeli Defence Force until being retired in 1961. 'Twilight Tear's' whereabouts are then unknown, although it is thought she was placed in storage, until March 1978 when she was spotted on static display outside at Herzlia. A former Israeli Defence Air Force pilot, Israel Itzhaki, duly acquired the Mustang and decided to restore her to airworthiness. With some help from several American collectors and despite limited resources, Itzhaki restored 'Twilight Tear' to airworthy status and the aircraft remained in Israel.
In December 1986, Itzhaki decided to sell 'Twilight Tear' and The Fighter Collection's Founder Stephen Grey inspected and test flew her on behalf of the Swedish company FlygExpo. The aircraft was duly ferried to Malmo in Sweden and painted in full Swedish Air Force markings. She remained in Scandinavia until acquired by the Duxford-based Fighter Collection in April 2002.

History courtesy of IWM

Spitfires!
AB910
BM597
EP120
MH434
MK912
MV293
PS853
RN201
SM832
SM845
TD248
Mustangs!
Big Beautiful Doll
Jumpin' Jacques
Janie
Fearless Frankie
Twilight Tear
TF-51D
Hurricanes!
Z7015
BE417
LF363
Warhawks!
OFMC
TFC
Big radials!
French operated Corsair
OFMC Corsair
La-9
P-47
Yak-3
Skyraider

Flying Legends 2003

Duxford, 12/13 July - Gary Parsons reports on Saturday's show

Firefly's last display. The Fairey Firefly was a two-seat British wartime carrier-borne fighter aircraft. The prototype flew in 1941 and the type entered service in 1943. Production ceased in 1956, after around 1,700 Fireflies had been built. The aircraft involved in the crash, WB271, entered RN service in 1949 and later saw service in the Korean War. It was transferred to the RN Historic Flight in 1972. The cause of the crash will now be investigated by the Ministry of Defence.

It was set to be a fine weekend's entertainment - the weather was glorious, the flying fantastic. Yet it was very difficult to find any enjoyment in the show after the crash of the Firefly in a field east of the M11 early on Saturday afternoon - although many hadn't actually witnessed it, the reaction of those who had and the tone of the commentary prepared one for the worst. Confirmation of the severity of the accident became clear at the end of the afternoon, with the sad news that pilot Lieutenant Commander Bill Murton, 45, and aircraft fitter Neil Rix, 29, had been lost. If there was any crumb of comfort, it was that no-one else was hurt.

The Breitling Fighters performed soon after the incident - not an easy thing to do

One can only imagine the thoughts of the other display pilots as they bravely continued with the airshow after a half-hour pause - that too of commentator Sean Maffett, in whose well-known voice one could feel the anguish. But, the show must go on - life is about living, and doing that entails risk in many things we do. Driving to the airshow will always be a riskier exercise than attending, and in the same week when seven died in a minibus on the M56 it illustrates fate knows no boundaries. Of course the accident investigation must examine the way in which these old aircraft are flown and maintained, but to deny the privilege to fly and watch them would diminish life's enjoyment for many.

The show was a fitting tribute to the skill of display pilots everywhere - it seems churlish to describe the flying programme at length, so let the pictures do the talking. Long may the pilots be able to show their talent in the skies above Duxford.

Bob Davis, son of WWII fighter pilot Lt Hubert Davis, sits in his father's actual aircraft some fifty-nine years later at the press launch for Duxford's Flying Legends Airshow

Living Legend

Making its debut at Duxford was a genuine Duxford-based wartime Mustang, now back in her original wartime colours. 'Twilight Tear' was based at Duxford with the USAAF 78th Fighter Group towards the end of the Second World War. The personal aircraft of young American pilot Lt Hubert 'Bill' Davis, who flew the bulk of his 35 combat missions and achieved three aerial victories in her. Twilight Tear's survival is remarkable in that, at the end of hostilities, most of the Groups' aircraft were flown to a depot near Blackpool for scrap.

Hubert Davis had three children - son Bob and daughters Louisa and Virginia (left). They were all at Duxford together with Bob's wife and two daughters. Their verdict? "A very emotional day".
Big Cats!
Bearcat
Hellcat
Tigercat
Wildcat
Biplanes!
Gladiator
Jungmeister
Nimrod
Heavies!
Sally B
B-25
EADS Ju-52
Lufthansa Ju-52

The aircraft was acquired from Scandinavia by the Duxford-based Fighter Collection in April 2002 and it was whilst carrying out a thorough over-haul and maintenance work that the aircraft's true identify was discovered - incredibly, Twilight Tear had come home. Immediately, efforts began to trace her pilot and his family. Sadly Lt Davis died tragically young in 1967, aged just 48, but his son and two daughters in America were traced and were astonished to learn that their father's aircraft, which he had named after a famous American race horse, had been found. They are at Flying Legends to witness Twilight Tear, restored to her former glory, make her air show debut and to pay homage to their late father's wartime exploits.

Aces all - Bud Anderson is on the leftAces High

No less than eight second world war veterans were at Duxford for the weekend. Most famous and becoming a Legends 'veteran' was Col Clarence 'Bud' Anderson, now 81 but still regularly flying P-51s in the USA. Also present was Luftwaffe pilot GŁnther Rall, who has the amazing tally of 275 aircraft destroyed (all but three on the Eastern Front). It was clear that these old adversaries have clearly put the past behind them as they chatted and joked on the flightline.

No-show Hurri

KZ321 receives attentionA disappointment for many was the no-show of TFC's new Hurricane IV KZ321/G-HURY, it spending the weekend in the hangar while an undercarriage problem was attempted to be rectified. A product of 35,000 man-hours, KZ321 was restored over the last two years at Hawker Restorations Ltd's workshop at Milden in Suffolk and made its flying debut at Duxford the day before the airshow. Sadly a hydraulic problem meant that it couldn't participate in the flying, but hopefully there will be plenty of opportunities in the future.

78th FG lineTF-51D

Special import this year was Chino Warbirds' Cavalier TF-51D Mustang N20TF, appropriately re-sprayed in 78th FG colours to join 'Twilight Tear', 'Big Beautiful Doll' and TFC's P-47 in a unique Duxford-quartet tribute. The TF-51 is a result of an order from the Bolivian Air Force in 1966 for refurbished P-51s that had been delivered earlier in the mid-fifties - 78th FG trio - the TF-51D is at the topthe aircraft were completely rebuilt, given new USAF serials and would serve the FAB until the mid-seventies. N20TF was later acquired by Tom Friedkin's Cinema Air (later Chino Warbirds) and suffered a belly-landing on 19 September 2000, damaging the fuselage and propeller. A 5,000 man-hour re-build followed and she was back in the air on 6 May 2003, with the express intent of being ready for Flying Legends. She will spend the summer at Duxford and return to the USA in the autumn.

 

Home | Airshows | The Hangar | Nostalgia | Links