Warbird Heritage Foundation Acquires P-51 Mustang “Moonbeam McSwine” To Honor Vlado Lenoch

posted in: Warbirds | 8

Vlado Lenoch and Moonbeam McSwine

Moonbeam McSwine is coming home!

The Warbird Heritage Foundation announced Wednesday that they’ve purchased the P-51 Mustang named “Moonbeam McSwine” from its most recent owner, Mr. Frederic Akary of France. The aircraft will reside under a new FAA registration number, N51VL, in honor of Vlado Lenoch.

Vlado and Moonbeam were synonymous; he flew the aircraft for over 20 years before he sold it to Akary in 2012 and began flying WHF’s P-51 Mustang “Baby Duck” at airshows instead. Vlado and passenger Bethany Root were flying in Baby Duck when they were killed in a crash last July. The aircraft was completely destroyed in the incident.

Moonbeam McSwine ReassemblyMoonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Rumors have been swirling for weeks now that Moonbeam was being brought home to the US to be flown as a tribute to Vlado, but until today nothing was confirmed publicly. The aircraft has arrived from overseas and is scheduled to be re-assembled at Tab-Air in East Troy, WI before joining the WHF fleet in Waukegan, IL. If all goes well, the aircraft should be up and flying in time for this summer’s airshow season!

Moonbeam McSwine Reassembly

Moonbeam’s history dates back to October of 1944, when it was manufactured in Inglewood, CA. In the 70s, 80s and 90s, Moonbeam raced in the Reno Air Races. Vlado flew it regularly in the United States Air Force Heritage Flight program (see the video below) before he sold it to Frederic Akary in 2012. Since then, it has been seen regularly at airshows across Europe.

We were fortunate to work with Vlado for many years, and continue to mourn his loss. This tribute is well deserved, and Moonbeam will certainly see many emotional reunions with Vlado’s friends as it returns to the airshow circuit. We look forward to bringing you plenty of photos and videos of this piece of history!

8 Responses

  1. Mark Demmin

    Vlado would be overwhelmed with the honor. He was a great friend to me and so many others. Good job WHM.

  2. Lee Hogan

    I was honored to fly formation with Vlado on August 15, 2015 for a photo op in my 1963 Cessna 172, a highlight in my twenty one years of flying.

  3. David Mills

    Thrilled to have moonbeam back in the us! Found a great home at Warbird Heritage. I look forward to seeing this historic aircraft back in the air in tribute to our great country and our remarkable military.

  4. Logan Rude

    I saw Vlado fly Baby Duck in many airshows and even met him. I am excited to see Moonbeam in US air

  5. Ron Mowery

    I met Vlado at an air show and he saw me drooling over Moonbeam. I finally got the courage to ask him “ how does anyone ever get a chance to ride in a P-51? He replied, come on by and I will give you a ride.” I was dumbfounded. And he gave me his card. Following an exchange of e-mails we met at his hanger and I got my ride.
    Vlado did not treat like just some old guy wanting a ride. For an hour I was one of his fellow pilots. A kinder, gentler, and friendlier guy could not be found.
    We were not friends, but I did see him at an air show once and got to say Hi, Nd Thanks for the thrill. But news of his passing left me feeling – empty. I think that somehow I now appreciate in a very small way combat pilots feel the loss of a comrad.

  6. Ralph Tanis

    My son and I joined warbird #4 when Will Martin started the warbird squad 4 and I won the first ride in Moonbeam. Vlado took my son for a ride. We taped an air to air shot with friend who won the second ride. We gave the tape to Valdo and he really enjoyed it. He was a great pilot and a super down to earth person. My son and I will never forget the moment .

  7. Mark Maggini

    As a 15 year old in high school, I was lucky enough to get several rides in this very P-51 airplane for simply helping my best friend wash it. My best friend’s father owned the airplane at that time and it was kept in pristine condition. What a thrill and what wonderful memories. Nothing like the acceleration of that plane on takeoff….

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