The almighty P-51 Mustang howl/scream is something every warbird fanatic should witness in person in their lifetime. It sends chills down you spine every time you hear it, making your experience that much more memorable. Why is it, however, that they do that?
Well, the answers are many if you do the research but we think we officially got to the bottom of it. Hear us out.
Digging through numerous World War II related forums and P-51 Mustang specific ones, we read testimonies from everyone ranging from warbird fans to mechanics and pilots. Everyone makes a somewhat solid case to this phenomenon, giving very specific and technical answers.
One of the most common answers you’ll read is the scoop. Mustangs have this iconic feature on their underbellies and it of course makes sense that air traveling through and around them might produce that sound. However, how can one explain that some Mustangs howl and others don’t? They all have them, right?
Then there are explanations we’ve read from “chair force” pilots (sorry for the derogatory term) which get all up into air humidity, angle of attack and supercharger performance which is too complicated for us to even explain, let alone verify if it’s true.
Dismissing this theory is easy though. Why is it that at certain airshows where more than one Mustang is flying some howl and some don’t? Also, and this will be our case, why do certain Mustangs whistle at every ssingle how? Hot, cold or in between, some of these P-51s scream no matter what when changing their angle of attack. We’d all like to think it’s the “raw power of the Merlin” as we’ve read many times, but sadly, that’s not the case.
Well, here’s the reason.
We’ve compiled two sets of pictures and videos of two famous P-51 Mustangs that are airworthy and fly in the airshow circuit. Old Crow and Ferocious Frankie respectively. Let’s now compare their one major difference and the way they sound when they dive in the videos we found.
This is Old Crow. As you can tell by looking at her wings, the gun ports have been blanked off. It’s not just her though. If you research any P-51 that has that modification, you’ll see that they don’t howl nor scream. Sure, they make a noise or two when diving but definitely nothing that qualifies as a scream or a howl. Check out the video below to see what we mean.
Now, here’s Ferocious Frankie. We managed to find a great picture of a close up of her gun ports. This is known to be the reason for the whistle.
Just think about blowing air into an empty glass bottle. The difference is that the air is traveling in a lot faster. Take a listen.
At the end of the day, this debate has been going on for decades. Everybody thinks they’re right, but we feel like this is conclusive. We’ve watched dozens of videos of Mustangs and been to plenty of airshows and the screamers always have gunports. The quiet ones don’t.
Also, we’ve read many anecdotes of people speaking with the pilots of these warbirds and they say the same thing. If you’ve got the time, check out these sources.