Cavalier Mustang History

When taking a look at the P-51 Mustang community today, it is not uncommon to find owners and pilots who are successful, wealthy business people who have the financial means to keep old, rare, combat aircraft flying.  But to have a Mustang as an executive business transport aircraft is an idea that, today, sounds unusual to many people.  In 1957, a newspaper publisher and Mustang fan, David B. Lindsay, Jr., thought the idea would sell. Remember that this was the time of Beech 18s and DC-3s, when corporate aircraft flew at 180mph; the prototype Lear Jet would fly six years later. Over a period of nearly twenty years, these “Cavalier Mustangs” enjoyed success in both civilian and military roles all the while writing another chapter in the story of the P-51 Mustang.

David Lindsay formed Trans Florida Aviation in 1957 with the sole intent of converting surplus P-51 Mustangs into civilian business aircraft. Lindsay purchased his initial airframes from the RCAF, and later USAF, at surplus sales for as little as $950.00. He then flew or shipped them to his base in Sarasota, FL where the aircraft were completely stripped, inspected, and reassembled. Among many of the original modifications include the addition of a second seat behind the pilot, modern avionics & instruments, additional luggage capacity, fuselage baggage door, flap step, canopy rail ram air system, 110 gallon tip tanks, and a new leather interior.  These Mustangs wore sharp civilian paint schemes and were marketed for the traveling businessman with room for one more.  The first aircraft was completed in 1958 and sold as the Trans Florida Aviation Executive Mustang. The base price in 1959 was $18,000 and the top of the line aircraft was $32,500.

Several of the Executive Mustangs were sold in the coming years and in 1961, the name was changed to the Cavalier Mustang and several different models were offered with varying fuel capacities and range from the standard 750 to 2500 miles.  The range in nautical miles was included in the aircraft designation (for instance, the Cavalier Mustang 2000 had a range of 2000 nautical miles).  Some of these aircraft saw the addition of 110 gallon wingtip fuel tanks and a 13 inch vertical stabilizer extension; approximately 20 were produced and sold between 1958 and 1969.

In 1962 Trans-Florida was called on by North American Aviation, the original builder of the Mustang, to construct a Cavalier Mustang, registered N2251D, for the use of famed test pilot Robert A. “Bob” Hoover as a demonstration aircraft. Lee Atwood, the president of NAA then and during WW II, signed the purchase order for the new Cavalier. Hoover demonstrated the yellow Mustang in air shows and at military bases to promote the North American name until it was replaced by a second Cavalier, N51RH, in 1971.

In 1963 Trans-Florida received a contract to overhaul 31 aircraft from the Dominican Air Force (FAD). This contract was completed 1965, all work being done at Sarasota. Trans-Florida also did contract work for Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Bolivia. Many of the cash poor countries paid for the work and parts by bartering their surplus P-51 airframes, which entered the growing Trans-Florida inventory. Lindsay also bought airframe parts and engines wherever he could find them. Many times the parts were purchased at auctions where the only other bidders were scrap metal dealers intent on melting the Mustang parts.

In 1967, following a company name change to Cavalier Aircraft Corporation, the company was contracted by the USAF to produce military F-51Ds to be exported via the Military Assistance Program. These aircraft were completely “remanufactured” using surplus, new old stock, and newly produced Cavalier parts and components. Because of the extent of the remanufacturing and modification process, the USAF assigned these aircraft new serial numbers beginning with 67-, 68-, to indicate the year of the USAF contract. Nine aircraft, including two TF-51D trainer aircraft, were obtained by Bolivia under project “Peace Condor.” An additional two F-51Ds were sold to the US Army to be used as chase planes for the Lockheed AH-56 “Cheyenne” helicopter; they eventually ended up in hands of the Navy for testing of wingtip-mounted 106mm recoilless rifles at NAS China Lake in the 1970s.

The Cavalier Mustang II was rolled out in 1967 as the US Department of Defense was still interested in procuring aircraft for use in other countries.  This new Mustang featured improved avionics, improved and strengthened structure, four additional external weapon hard-points, and a more powerful Merlin V-1650-724A engine that could produce close to 1,800 horsepower.  Cavalier F-51Ds were exported to Indonesia, under USAF project “Peace Pony,” and El Salvador for counterinsurgency and close air support roles.  A total of twelve of these aircraft were built by Cavalier and its successor, Field Services, (a company set up by Lindsay to complete project “Peace Pony.”)

The final Cavalier project was the Turbo Mustang III.  This aircraft employed a completely new engine, the Rolls Royce Dart 510 turboprop (the RR Dart being the only engine readily and economically available at the time), and kept the airframe of the Cavalier Mustang.  The Mustang III was designed for the close air support role and featured much improved performance, reliability, and lower maintenance costs.  Despite numerous demonstrations to the USAF and foreign military air forces, the airplane never found a home as a combat aircraft.  In 1971, Lindsay sold the prototype and rights to Piper Aircraft where it was re-engined with the Lycoming YT-55 and dubbed the “Enforcer.”

In 1971, after the sale of the Mustang rights, David Lindsay moved on to assist Piper with the Enforcer.  The Cavalier Aircraft Corporation facilities in Sarasota were sold.  Many Cavalier Mustangs are still flying today, including many that returned to the US after being retired from foreign military service.