Cloud Dancer's New Home

Leeward Air Ranch’s stock P-51 (N55JL) “Cloud Dancer” was acquired April 29th, 2010 (less its engine) by Phil Petrik, a friend of Jimmy Leeward's, who is a lifelong aviation enthusiast. Phil owns an established aviation operation, Richland Aviation in Sidney, Montana where his family for the past 40 years has operated an FBO and aerial application company. 

He is an accomplished 30,000-hour pilot with plenty of experience in many different types of aircraft.  He started flying air shows in a Pitts Special at the age 19; we’re sure you’ve probably seen him perform aerobatics at the Oshkosh Air Venture air show in his small engine T-28 A.  It’s an awesome act.  He will certainly be a welcome addition to the P-51 community. 

He’s already proven he’s an accomplished P-51 pilot with a cool head.  After installing a newly acquired Merlin engine from California, he did two local test flights in McKinney, TX out of Aero-Country airport, which has a 3000 x 40’ runway, and then left for his home airport in Sidney, Montana.  Cruising at 14,000 feet and two hours into the flight, he unfortunately had a major engine failure when a rod went through the side of the case and made a hole the size of a grapefruit.  He pushed "Nearest Airport" on his GPS, which was 7 miles, and headed for that.  He then spiraled down through an undercast and dead sticked it into Curtis, Nebraska (which is a 3400’ duster strip) without a scratch to the airplane. 

Also at this point in the story, I would also like to give credit where credit is most definately due. Phil purchased the motor that failed from Duane Doyle, who owns a number of warbirds. The purchse was arranged by Dan Martin, a famous air racer. Although Phil accepted in writing that the engine condition would be "as is, where is" at Oakland, CA, Duane and Dan talked it over and Duane decided to be a very real "gentleman" and refunded the entire purchase price back to Phil. In addition, Duane had a friend in Nebraska pick up the engine and ship it back to Oakland at his expense. What a guy! Phil acquired another engine a few days later, which he and two others installed. All this happened in a matter of 3 1/2 weeks.

As of May 26th, his P-51 is resting safely in the hangar at his operation in Sidney, Montana.  Keeping in mind what the alternative might have been, it’s a great ending to the story for the P-51 community.  Look for him at the Reno Air Races in the future.  Phil has already picked out a number and is pondering a name for the airplane.  Jimmy retained the name “Cloud Dancer” and the number "9” and will most likely be placing those on his newly acquired A-26 he’s contemplating racing at Reno in 2011.

Phil is a really nice guy, a great pilot and our former P-51 could not have found a better home.

Featured Member(s): 
Jimmy Leeward