There’s nothing like a North American P–51 Mustang to bring folks out to an airport or inspire would-be pilots to start living the dream. Now the airplane that launched so many on their life’s journey in aviation is calling those who have let the dream slip away to come back and relive it.
On March 3, an AOPA Rusty Pilots Seminar will take place at Stallion 51, the organization that provides orientation flights and pilot training at Florida’s Kissimmee Gateway Airport in historical aircraft including the T–6 Texan, and yes, the P–51 (using Stallion 51’s two-place Mustangs Crazy Horse and Crazy Horse 2).
Pretty cool idea, if we say so ourselves.
“Many grew up fantasizing about the Mustang. Let’s hope it inspires them again to get back in the cockpit,” said KT Budde-Jones, Stallion 51’s promotions coordinator—herself a T–6 Texan pilot who learned to fly at age 45.
Not to add unreasonably to the suspense, but space is limited for the seminar that is free to AOPA members and available to nonmembers for $69, so early registration is encouraged if you wish to secure a seat for yourself in this barn full of horses.
The presenter for the AOPA Rusty Pilots seminar in Kissimmee will be Jamie Beckett, AOPA’s Florida ambassador, flight instructor, and the pilot of one of the bright yellow Reimagined 152 airplanes that visit airports around the country to remind pilots of the affordable joys and freedom of flight. Beckett holds commercial land and sea ratings for airplanes, and instrument and multiengine instructor ratings. He also is an airframe and powerplant mechanic with a penchant for classics and a frequent contributor to a wide variety of aviation publications; his passion for general aviation is infectious. Attendance at the seminar also satisfies the ground training requirement for your flight review.
Pilots attending also will hear from senior FAA Aviation Medical Examiner Dr. William Busch of AVDOC 51, Stallion 51’s “fully operational aviation and pilot-oriented medical clinic that focuses on the care and well-being of aviators and flight crews with all levels of experience and backgrounds.” Busch will discuss how to prepare for your FAA medical exam, and how to stay healthy for flying, Budde-Jones said.
Also addressing the gathering will be a representative from the Kissimmee Gateway Airport air traffic control tower to review airport operations and procedures—a session that promises to bring rusty pilots up to date on the controlled-airport environment and ease them back into feeling confident about communicating and interacting with ATC.
Budde-Jones believes that many of the concerns of pilots who have been away from flying for too long can be “simply fixed by a little bit of education.” She hopes the temptation of a shared return to aviation with other rusty pilots in the unique ambiance of—and this can’t be repeated too many times—a hangar full of Mustangs, will prove irresistible.
Even without Mustangs, thousands of pilots have found their way back into the cockpit through AOPA Rusty Pilots seminars: In 2017, the Rusty Pilot Initiative, a component of AOPA’s You Can Fly program to grow the pilot population, brought more than 8,000 pilots back to aviation at more than 250 seminars across the country.
That prompted Budde-Jones and Beckett to brainstorm the idea of holding a seminar at Stallion 51 on March 3, Budde-Jones said, adding that she soon became “very excited” about the idea, and has worked hard to “amp up” enthusiasm for the event among the rusty pilot population.
“It’s great to have one here because of where it is, who we are, and what we can bring to the table,” she said.