Tuesday, August 8, 2017

November 255 Sierra

It's always been a bit of a mystery to me, this plane, parked in a field on the edge of Hwy 82 at Toco.  There's a couple small hangars and some light aircraft, like Cessnas, in the back.  But this big ol' girl just sits there, intact, but showing the wear and tear of the unsheltered in Texas, her paint fading, her tail holier than swiss cheese now.

Today, on the road home from a doctor visit in Sherman, I could resist the siren call no more.  I turned down the barely paved road that runs past the airport, such as it is...

I was hoping to get a tail number off her, and maybe if I was lucky, to see the blue Navy warbird that has been parked outside one of the hangars, for most of this year.  Neither DH nor I could ID the Navy bird, so I was hoping to photograph it.

Despite her condition, I find her rather photogenic.  I was rushed to take these shots, and being limited to my cellphone for a camera.  As I pulled down the road beside her, I was able to make out that most-essential bit of information, her tail number.  November 255 Sierra.  Now I had her!
The plan was to look the number up online, and see what I could find.  Little did I know what a fascinating set of links this mere number would unveil!   While I was there, I managed a longer range shot of another aircraft.  I couldn't pull a tail number off it, and it's obviously not flight worthy at this moment, as it is missing the prop!  Still, I can see it was apparently once military, there being a white star in the faded blue on the wings, and the SM in the black on the tail.  However, I don't recognize what type of plane it is.  Do you?  If you do recognize it, please let me know in the comments section.
I tried a reverse image search on this plane, to no avail.  Any help would be much appreciated.

Once home, I used my Google-fu, and discovered the history of N255S.  What was so fascinating was not so much the plane, as the place!  The Flying Tiger Air Museum used to operate out of this little dirt strip field (yes I know the runway is somewhat paved...).

The man who owned and ran it, was a former stunt pilot, with a bit of Hollywood history to his resume.  He also had quite the collection of flight worthy warbirds!  On top of it all, the planes were not just to look at, like static displays--oh no, you could FLY THEM!  Yes, plunk down your money, and Mr Burchinal could teach you to fly warbirds!  At various times, there was a B-17, a B-25, an SNJ, a T-6, a P-38, F-86 Sabre, a Corsair, and the creme de la Creme, a P-51 Mustang!  How many of these were flight ready I am unsure, though I did find a link to a lengthy write up of one man's experience studying under Mr Burchinal and eventually soloing the Mustang.  Sadly, such a flight school could no longer exist in today's litigious world...

Alas, the museum eventually closed, Mr Burchinal passed away, and the aircraft were mostly sold off.  A little piece of Texas history, and American history died with it.  I wish I had been around here, back then, to see it all.  It would've been glorious!

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