'Mustang with Helmet'

Oil painting on linen by Grant McSherry. 1200 mm x 800 mm.

P-51 D Mustang painting by Grant McSherry

The original oil painting ‘Mustang with Helmet’ by Grant McSherry is currently available for purchase NZ$9,995.

Background on the oil painting 'Mustang with Helmet' by Grant McSherry

As my objective was to create a piece of art rather than just a picture of a classic aeroplane, I have taken a slightly unorthodox approach toward the subject material by treating the P-51 Mustang as a piece of art in its own right...

Dad was a young boy in England during the Second World War and was directly affected by the Battle of Britain. I grew up sharing Dad’s interest and fascination for World War 2 aircraft, which no doubt originated from his experiences.

I lost count of the number of times we went to see the MGM movie ‘Battle of Britain’, which was Dad’s all time favourite, due to the fact that for the most part, real aircraft were used.

I bought my first kitset WW2 aeroplane at the age of 12 and this led to the assembly of an entire air force of 1/72 scale models during my early teenage years. Painting the models prior to assembly was always my primary focus. An old friend commented a while ago that he believes my model making as a kid represented the beginning of my foray into oil painting.

The first time I saw a Mustang flying (this one) was during a small air show at Matamata, Waikato, in the very early ‘90s. The air show also featured a Spitfire and a Sea Fury. For me the sights and sounds of the experience were awesome. A highlight of having moved to Christchurch some years later was that a P-51 Mustang (also this one) would sometimes make low level passes over the city around Easter time. When I worked in the city I looked forward to these apparently impromptu performances.

In April 2010 a local ‘Wings and Wheels’ event took place at Darfield ‘International Air Port‘ (as the locals call it) and the P-51 Mustang was the feature. My father in law and I went along and it was at this event that I shot the photos for my painting ‘Mustang with Helmet’. Unfortunately the nor ‘westerly wind was so strong the aircraft was unable to deliver an aerial show that day.

I felt a painting of the P-51 D Mustang would be an excellent opportunity to connect my passion for painting with my boyhood model making hobby and ongoing interest in aircraft. The subject material represents a piece of New Zealand history, which I have abbreviated and commented on below.

Full information is available from the following links. Many thanks to Phil Treweek http://www.kiwiaircraftimages.com for agreeing to let me quote some of his research and to http://www.adf-serials.com

P-51 D Mustangs in the RNZAF

I understand that the Royal New Zealand Air force took delivery of P-51 D Mustangs in 1945. However the Mustangs were put in storage and were not used until 1951, when the government was considering sending a squadron to Korea as part of its UN commitment. As this plan didn’t eventuate the Mustangs were allocated to already existing Territorial Air Force Squadrons (or TAFs). Each TAF carried squadron markings representing the colours of the provincial rugby teams, i.e. Auckland was blue & white, Wellington black & yellow, Canterbury red and black and there was no green at all on the Otago aircraft...their markings were blue and yellow.

After ten accidents resulting in write - offs, six of which were in an eight month period, the Mustangs were withdrawn, the official reason being due to the deterioration of airframes (undercarriage problems). The pilots were left with Tiger Moths and Harvards and by 1957 the TAF squadrons were disestablished.

This P-51 D Mustang (NZ 2415)

This aircraft is not the original NZ 2415 of 3 (Canterbury) Squadron that was piloted by CO S/L Ray Archibald. It is actually an ex USAF/Philippine Air Force P-51 Mustang. I understand this aircraft was imported to New Zealand by Sir Tim Wallace. The Mustang continued to operate under its US registration until 1986 when it was registered to Alpine Helicopters Ltd. Sir Tim Wallis wanted to sell the aircraft In the late 1980's in favour of a Spitfire, so the NZ Historic Aircraft Trust was set up to keep the aircraft in New Zealand. Although this was successful the Trust could only raise sufficient funds to operate the aircraft and could not purchase it. Major shares were bought by John Sager and Graham Bethell, while the Trust kept an interest. Graham Bethell eventually purchased the Mustang outright in 1996.

The original Mustang NZ 2415 was shipped from the US on the "Dominion Park" and received at the Aircraft Assembly Depot at Hobsonville in August 1945. It was promptly placed in rubberised storage in early 1946 (The RNZAF seem to love this rubber stuff, having also wrapped up their Skyhawks some 45 years later) and transferred NZ 2415 to Ardmore in 1947. It remained cocooned until early 1952 when it went to No.3 (Canterbury) TAF Squadron from June 1952 to May 1954. NZ 2415 was damaged in a landing accident in 1954 at Wigram after losing power on approach and went to Woodbourne for repair. It remained there, badly damaged and minus its engine, until sold to ANSA Co in Nelson for 25 pounds in 1958. The original NZ 2415 was then scrapped.

It’s fantastic that a part of the legacy of the Canterbury TAF still lives on through the 70 or so year old aircraft that still invigorates New Zealand skies, depicted in this painting.

Original painting 'Mustang with Helmet': Oil on linen, Cedar stretcher.

Available for purchase NZ $9,995 + any packaging and freight costs.
Original painting size: 1200mm x 800mm.