Monday, September 14, 2009

Giants Among Us

In this recent post I described the visit to KBDR of three vintage warbirds - a B-17 Flying Fortress, a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang. I also sent an e-mail on the subject to my friend Steve Cavallo. Steve and I have in common that we both have degrees from the same Aeronautical Engineering school - just separated by 28 years. He was a test pilot for NACA at Langley Field from 1942 to 1947.

Steve goes way back with these airplanes. Here's an excerpt from his reply to my e-mail:

"I was asked to attend the fly-in of the trio of World war II airplanes. Their P-51 is the model that I flew in gust load tests through storm clouds and ended up bailing out of it when the engine failed due to the large "g" forces put on it exacerbated by the fact that it is on the end of a cantilevered engine mount. We also had the A,D and H models at Langley. I got to fly the B,D,and H. I was considered an "expert" on P-51's and on December 6th, 1990 gave a General Electric series speech called "Riding the Mustang". My quotation at the time was that the P-51 was the best airplane I ever flew, that it was the best plane of WWII and it probably was the best airplane that ever was...The P-51B with the 109 canopy was the fastest of the lot. ...
I was pleased to...get a ride in the B-24 and did so sitting the jump seat of the cockpit which brought back fond memories. I also got to crawl from tail gunners post to the bombadier's seat. They have done a great job of restoring and flying this 70 year old airplane and I wonder how much longer they can keep it "up". They might still be able to get parts but vibrating them for so many hours over so many years might take its toll.
Anyway, thanks for the email."
That just hints at who this man is and what he's done. If you would like to be exposed to more of his stories, have a look at his contribution to NASA's Oral History Project.

NACA Langley test pilots with P-47 in 1945. Steve Cavallo is 2nd from right. (NASA Photo)
I'm greatly honored to have Steve as a friend. He's in his late 80's now - though that's hard to believe when you see how fit he is. He is still an active pilot (but lately sticks to good VFR weather). Knowing him, I can say with certainty that Giants of Aviation are still among us.

No comments: