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Embracing the MustangEmbracing the Mustang

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Art Teeters, left, and Lori Atkinson.

Perhaps the best-known aeronautical institution on Salinas Municipal Airport is Cal-Pacific Airmotive Inc. Founded by Art and Fran Teeters in 1976, the FAA-approved repair station—which specializes in major repairs—has achieved acclaim for its P-51 Mustang rebuilds. Cal-Pacific parts very likely are installed on almost every Mustang flying today. Four generations of the family are involved in aviation today.

While the facility is normally closed to the public, guided tours are being offered during the AOPA Fly-In on Saturday, May 16. The tours are free, but space is limited. Visitors interested in touring the facility must pick up a ticket at the AOPA Fly-In registration tent. Tours will be offered at 9:30 and 10:45 a.m., noon, and 1:30 p.m. Please note, no photography or video will be allowed inside the facility.

Lori Atkinson, Cal-Pacific’s service and quality manager—and the daughter of founders Art and Fran Teeters—will lead the tours.

Forming a Mustang cowling is a laborious process.

“We fell into the P-51, we didn’t go looking for them,” said Atkinson. Her grandfather, Chester Arthur Teeters, learned to fly in 1923 at age 20, purchased a Curtiss Canuck, and joined the Garver Flying Circus in Kansas—giving rides for $3 each. One can see where her father, Chester Arthur Teeter Jr.—Art—got his love for aviation.

Cal-Pacific developed expertise and a highly regarded reputation in heavy repairs and major rebuilds for most Cessna, Piper, and Beech production aircraft—single-engine and twins. Although the company no longer does that kind of work, it still stores the fuselage fixtures and jigs it has made.

Atkinson said that one day, her dad reluctantly took on a Mustang rebuild. “Then the air race guys saw there was a Mustang here, and they came to us for the wing modifications.”

Teeters didn’t enjoy working on the racers. “Dad never liked cutting the plane up for the mods,” she explained, especially clipping the racer wings—but he really enjoyed restoring the airplanes. Mustangs that the company restored for pilot and collector Kermit Weeks put Cal-Pacific on the map—and raised the bar for P-51 restorations.

Old and new Mustang fuel selector placards.

Today the company owns limited type certificates for the P-51C, D, and K, as well as templates and jigs for most Mustang models. It can perform magnaflux and zyglow testing of parts for hidden damage in house, and makes replacements for parts that fail. “We try to keep what we can, but we’ll fabricate when necessary,” Atkinson said. In fact, the company’s Mustang parts business is bigger than the laborious restorations.

“We’re introducing new parts to the industry,” she said. “It’s always been our goal to make FAA-approved parts available. We can do a lot with the repair station certificate. We’re making great strides—we started making inventory before we had anyplace to put it,” Atkinson laughed.

Visitors during the AOPA Fly-In can expect to see a couple of dual-control TF-51 Mustang projects coming together in jigs that were built from unneeded engine stands. One sports a brand-new canopy and tail, as well as an overhauled tailwheel assembly and hydraulic system. “We have the prints for the TF-51 also,” she added, and the company is creating patterns as necessary. “We try to keep a pattern for everything. You really can’t go from the [blue] print to production.”

An engine and engine mount are ready for installation.

Patterns line a wall in the Cal-Pacific facility, color coded to the airframe. Yellow patterns are for the P-51A, while gray indicates those for the P-51B/C, and a lighter gray denotes the P-51D. Patterns for the TF-51 are dark green.

In a back corner of the facility sits her grandfather’s Cessna 140, with its original interior. Several family members learned to fly in the airplane, which last flew in the 1990s and is under restoration—as time permits.

Members planning to fly in to the Salinas fly-in should download the Pilot Information Packet, which includes detailed arrival procedures, and view the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Salinas arrival video (below). Friday evening’s Barnstormers Party, which features a special screening of the movie Living in the Age of Airplanes, has sold out.

Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
Topics: Fly in, AOPA Events, Warbird

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