GALLOPING ON WINGS
With the P-51 Mustang
Diary of an air race pilot
Written by Howie Keefe
Review by Joseph J. Gleason
This is a must read and one that I will purchase in numbers for my active pilot friends. You will be thrilled by this quick and easy read that captivates the imagination with every word. If you have any experience flying at all you will want to read this work over and over.
In each of his accounts of these amazing feats of daring, pushing the limits of both man and machine, Howie Keefe explains in simple terms, the pressures he felt and the decisions he made that both endangered his life and saved it. He takes you to the edge each and every time.
I was so fortunate to have personally met Howie Keefe, a true living legend, and to have listened for over an hour as he spoke to a large enthusiastic group of pilots at a recent meeting of the Central Florida Pilots’ Association at Lakeland Lindner Airport in Lakeland, Florida. Howie now lives in the Lakeland area. In the very near future I will purchase several signed copies of this book to present as special gifts to my pilot friends. I sincerely suggest you all do the same.
Howie Keefe narrates his account of how he achieved the world speed record in his modified P-51 Mustang from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. on May 27, 1972 in 6 hours and 21 minutes at 23,000 feet, at a true air speed of 412 mph, making just one stop for fuel and a tuna fish sandwich in Wichita, Kansas. You can hear the laughter in his voice as he describes flying one handed while trying to each that tuna fish sandwich while wearing an oxygen mask. His big challenge came when he made the decision to punch through the wall of a thunderstorm at speed.
Each chapter is dedicated to a major event in his long and prestigious air racing career. He describes from transit to arrival, crew preparation, the challenges of time trials, each entry position, the thrill of the start and finish, by completion and placement and/or mechanical failure.
Howie Keefe is one of those truly rare living legends of any dangerous sport. Nothing can compare to the experience of riding with him as he pulls debilitation G forces in pylon turns at 400 plus mph, sometimes wingtip to wingtip whether challenged by an experienced competitor or a dangerous rookie.
Howie gives an exciting account of his navigational challenges, cross country races, IFR flying in questionable conditions, and takes you along with him in close quarter high speed pylon racing at some of the world’s most challenging courses including Reno, Mojave, San Diego, Miami and Cape May. He will tell you what it took to modify his P-51 Mustang to achieve an astonishing 130 inch manifold pressure in order to make a qualifying time in excess of 400 mph.
Very few pilots will ever have the opportunity to experience the thrill of anywhere near these amazing feats and I am eternally grateful for the artful account of his accomplishments. It is so easy to imagine yourself in the cockpit with him, to smell the spilled hydraulic burning or to feel the heat rising from the floor as the coolant struggles to keep the engine from seizing up.
You can sense the disappointment when the engine suddenly loses compression forcing him to disengage from the competition and rapidly climb to altitude in order to safely maneuver into position for a dead stick landing after going inverted to try to free the jammed landing gear.
A true champion, Mr. Keefe is quick to heap praise on his support team of mechanics, volunteers and sponsors without whom he would have suffered many more frustrating losses.
If you ever get the opportunity to meet Mr. Howie Keefe thank him for his life’s work.
Review by Joseph J. Gleason