The “Berlin Express” P-51B Mustang achieved legendary status in an epic World War II dogfight in Paris in 1944, piloted by American Bill Overstreet, who flew the aircraft under the Eiffel Tower in hot pursuit of a German fighter. Overstreet eventually downed the German Messerschmitt Bf 109G and eluded heavy enemy fire while escaping the battle with his P-51B Mustang “Berlin Express” intact.
More than 70 years after this landmark moment, the “Berlin Express” will take to the skies again in honor of the brave airmen who fought against the Axis powers in World War II.
Civilian pilot Dan Friedkin, who owns “Berlin Express” and is one of only nine civilian Heritage Flight pilots qualified to fly in formation with U.S. Air Force single-ship demonstration teams, will fly the historic aircraft and perform in the Flying Legends Airshow on the right wing alongside his longtime Horsemen Flight Teammates Steve Hinton and Ed Shipley on July 8 and 9.
He will also pilot the “Berlin Express” with the Air Combat Command’s F-22 aerial demonstration team at the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, UK, July 15 and 16.Before the airshow gets under way, the “Berlin Express” will make a historic transatlantic flight from the U.S. to Duxford, England with Stallion 51 Corporation’s owner and USAF Heritage Flight Alumni Lee Lauderback in the cockpit, following the same route it took as part of the military troop buildup in the UK during World War II.
The 5,470-mile journey began on June 28 in Texas and was mapped by a SPOT Gen3 tracking device that transmitted the aircraft’s location on a Google Earth map in 5-minute intervals.
The real-time flight path of the “Berlin Express,” along with video and photos captured along the way, can be followed at www.pursuitaviation.com/berlin-express and @pursuit.aviation on Instagram through its landing in Duxford on July 4.
“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Dan Friedkin, chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group, Horsemen Flight Team member and founder of the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force. We’re excited to offer people around the world the chance to follow Lee’s memorable voyage of the ‘Berlin Express’ across the Atlantic and look forward to celebrating his arrival in Duxford.”
After departing Texas on June 28, Lauderback will pilot the “Berlin Express” to Paducah, Kentucky, Dunkirk, New York, Bangor, Maine, Goose Bay, Canada, Narsarsuaq, Greenland, Keflavik, Iceland and Wick, Scotland before arriving at Duxford Airfield.
The restored “Berlin Express” is based around the remains of the P-51B 43-24837. This Mustang flew with the 9th Air Force’s 363rd Fighter Group out of RAF Staplehurst in Kent, England. It crashed in Beckley on June 10, 1944, after the pilot was forced to bail out during a training exercise.
Sporting a “Malcolm Hood” canopy and wearing the markings for “Berlin Express,” it is dressed exactly like the 357th Fighter Group Mustang that Overstreet famously flew under the Eiffel Tower in 1944.
Friedkin, who owns one of the largest collections of vintage military warplanes in the U.S., has a passion for flying and warbirds that started at an early age. He obtained his pilot license as a teenager and began flying high performance vintage military aircraft, performing in aerobatic airshows across North America and Europe with the U.S. Air Force, which he continues to do today. He founded the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation to honor the men and women of the U.S. Air Force through Heritage Flight displays, and started the Horsemen as the world’s only P-51 Mustang formation aerobatic team.
This year marks the 25th edition of the Flying Legends Airshow, a world famous aerial spectacular that will be held at the iconic Duxford airfield on July 8 and 9. The airshow will feature choreographed displays showcasing unique aircraft types rarely seen together in the skies, including the P-51 Mustang, Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, and Curtiss-Wright Warhawk, among many others. Flying Legends will culminate with a grand finale Balbo formation when all the World War II fighters take to the skies to salute spectators in a mass flyover.