Paul Redlich dead-sticked a newly restored P-40 into Ohio’s Clermont County Airport (I69) from 6,500 feet this winter. The Allison engine suddenly blew on a test flight of the rare and iconic World War II fighter about six miles east of I69, and Paul found himself flying a glider with the sink rate of a Mosler safe and with the windscreen obscured by oil and hydraulic fluid. He made it back because he’s a magnificent pilot (and gifted mechanic) but was high and fast on the approach.
When he realized it wouldn’t stop by the end of the runway, he tried a groundloop in the overrun, but the grass was wet and the airplane slid sideways through a fence onto the road. Paul says his helmet, Nomex flight suit and gloves helped him escape unhurt with only minor facial irritation from the spray of hydraulic fluid. Even with fuel in the wings and behind the cockpit, the tanks remained intact and there was no fire.
OK, OK. I take back everything I said about Nomex and helmets and flight suits ... I guess.
Paul, his charming and attractive wife, Diane (I hate her), and I are good friends, although after my piece “Warbirdia” I am persona non grata at the Tri-State Warbird Museum where Paul works his magic on a collection of exotic and rare airplanes. Prior to this understandable ostracism I gave Paul a couple of flight checks, one in an AT-6 and the other, his Commercial, in the museum’s two-seat P-51. He flew the ride flawlessly, and I was both exhilarated and mortified by the end of the ride. See, we agreed that loops, Cuban eights and slow and snap rolls were better measures of a pilot’s skill than plain vanilla chandelles and lazy eights. Plus, they were a lot more fun ... at first. I was pretty blind in that back seat, riding through a bunch of positive, negative and zero G’s and sweating from the heat of the sun blasting through the canopy. Some initial queasiness degenerated into acute airsickness, and I was in imminent danger of tossing my cookies all over “Admiral” Dave O’Malley’s P-51. Wisely, Paul didn’t even try for Clermont County but landed on Todd Winemiller’s long grass strip, where I tumbled out of the cockpit and rolled around in the soft grass, laughing, gasping for air and making him promise to keep it right side up on the way home.
When I heard about the P-40 crash and that he was OK, I sent Paul a picture of my ex, Ebby, taken in 1947, long before I knew him. He’s standing on the wing of the P-51 he’d just put through the fence at Lunken Airport when a coolant line burst on takeoff.
Ebby told me that, when he came home after flying P-51s in the Air Corps, “defending the Panama Canal” in World War II, he was sitting in his office at the family’s valve works one spring day, staring out at a brilliant blue sky. In an instant he knew it was time to put being vice president of the Lunkenheimer Gear Co. on a back burner and to get into the cockpit of his beloved Mustang again as soon as possible.