It’s a collection of cleverly shaped pieces of steel and aluminum that, when mixed with gasoline, can be manipulated by a human operator and made to move through the air and do stuff. That’s it. That’s the entire Mustang thing. So, why all the intefest? No, let me amend that. It’s not just «interest.” Why all the outrageous passion it seems to engender? Very good questions! Unfortunately, we have no answers.

One thing is an absolute fact, however: for reasons that are often unique to the individual involved, the Mustang is NOT «just» a machine. It somehow transcends that rather mundane description and becomes so much more. In fact, it somehow passes into a nameless category that is home to only a very few mechanical contrivances: certain models of Ferraris, a few tall ships whose majesty makes them near-mystic entities, select exotic firearms that possess an artistry and pedigree that propels them well out of the firearm category and a few other artistically alive mechanical creations. The Mustang’s peer group is small and all are capable of touching something within us that’s both visceral and artistic. Visual and physical. Intellectual and emotional.

The Mustang’s attraction is universal. It starts with «that» sound and travels well past the nuts and bolts to the deeds, to the battles, to the heroes who rode her into combat. She was both their mount and their sword that etched their actions and their names deeply into mankind’s memory. She was, and is, the stuff of legend. And none of us can get enough of her. That’s why every few years, we here at Flight Journal are driven to produce a magazine that is dedicated to our favorite fighter. Which coincidentally, is the favorite of a large percentage of our readers as well.

It’s also no coincidence that, as editor-in-chief, I’m pushing this kind of project as hard as I can. This is because I’m one of the fortunate few who have flown Mustangs. And I don’t mean the now-popular dual control machines. I mean sitting there strapped in while a more experienced pilot crouches on the wing and tries to verbally pass along some of that experience. He then pats you on the top of your head and says, «See ya, have fun!» That is known as having skin in one of the wildest games you’ll ever play! It’s just you, your skill and more horsepower than you even knew existed. Then, the power coming up, the noise ceases being a sound and becomes a pressure that invades every cell in your body. And you’re suddenly face to face with your heroes from the past. You are where they were when they were barely out of their teens and had been tasked with saving the world from tyranny. It’s a heady feeling knowing that you can actually call yourself a Mustang pilot. A newbie, yes—but better a newbie than a never-been-there.

In this special issue we do our best to pass along some Mustang trivia that’s new to you. And we try to introduce you to some of those Mustang men who gave us the world we now enjoy. And we try to tell the story of the Mustang from her first wobbly steps into the air as a fledgling to the years, when, her capabilities well honed, her pilots well trained, she became a major factor in changing the course of history. We tell that tale through the words of men who flew the very first pre-Mustangs into combat, who then blooded her for the first time and transitioned through the series of increasingly efficient new models, each time testing her against a vastly more experienced foe. We tell the tale of the warrior and his mount, who, as a unit, drove the wolves from the world’s door.

We hope you enjoy the eye candy, the photos, which are the glue we use to hold the words together. Both vintage and new, these photos are the result of the world’s best aviation photographers plying their trade.

So, hop on board, dial in a bunch of right rudder trim and hang on. We’re going flying, Mustang style!

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