Sometimes new doesn’t mean new, but in this case it’s about as true as it gets for 76 year old microfilm. Several months ago I added a third set of P-51 drawings to the members-only area of the AirCorps Library website. This new addition raised our total number of drawings for the iconic P-51 Mustang to more than 30,000 – but this “new” set of P-51 film is slightly more interesting than what we currently had.
In late 2018 I received a call from Cynthia Kenner. Her husband, Craig Gutchow, had recently passed, and in cleaning out their basement she uncovered a plastic tote with 12 rolls of microfilm labeled “F-51, Sept-1945”. After just a brief chat with her I was eager to take a closer look at the microfilm, and she kindly agreed to ship everything to me so I could do just that. When the box arrived, I unpacked it to find something amazing.
Each microfilm reel was still in its original USAF box and appeared to be very lightly used. Original packaging is not exactly rare, but many times sets of microfilm from WWII have been “well used” and the film begins to show its age after 75 years. (For more on microfilm and the quality issues that accompany it, check out my Understanding WWII Microfilm blog.) However, Craig’s set of film was different – the boxes looked like they had not been opened since the 1940s, and once I got a roll onto our microfilm reader that conclusion was clear, VERY clear.
Craig Gutchow learned to fly when he was 16 in his father’s N3N that they used as a crop duster in California’s central valley, and his love of aviation would remain with him for the rest of his life. Craig joined the Air Force, shipped out to Vietnam, and would fly 235 missions in a F-105 Thunderchief.
After returning to the states and marrying Cynthia, Craig piloted for Eastern Air Lines for 11 years and later went into the real estate business. Craig’s warbird story began when the pair were at an Orange County airshow, and Cynthia bought him a ride in Treat Williams’ T-6. The rest, as they say, was history. It’s usually pretty easy to pinpoint when someone catches the warbird “disease”, and shortly after his first warbird ride Craig purchased a T-6 for himself. Craig’s T-6 (93284, TA-284) was an Air Race veteran that he hangared in Ramona, CA, where he would often fly formation and do aerobatics with other T-6 owners. His collection would grow as time went on to include a Beechcraft Bonanza and Howard DGA-15, among other aircraft. Craig’s enthusiasm for aviation often spilled over into real estate, and he was often known to give customers rides in his aircraft.
In my conversations with Cynthia, she was unsure exactly where Craig had found his set of P-51 microfilm, but did remember them carrying it around for over 20 years. Like a lot of T-6 owners, his interest had clearly spread to the Mustang. After taking a closer look at the film, it was easy to conclude that wherever Craig had purchased the set from, both he (and they) had never really used it for anything.
In general, microfilm is a fragile media – the more you use it the more damaged it becomes. Age, overuse, and inherent vice issues such as image darkening and vinegar syndrome can cause a perfectly good set of drawings to become unreadable. Some might have said that it was a waste that Craig never took his set of microfilm out of the box, but now we can all thank him.
Because this set of microfilm was stored and not disturbed in any way, the images are crystal clear and much easier to read, even on a microfilm reader, than either of the two sets of P-51 drawings that we currently had. After having the microfilm digitized the difference in the film quality was even more apparent. The quality of the digital images from scanning are directly related to the quality of the image as seen on a microfilm roll. If the image is damaged on the microfilm reel, no amount of technology can improve the scan. In essence, I always say “you get what you get” when it comes to microfilm. Fortunately, Craig’s film was in such good condition that this “oh well” moment never happened!
As many know who work with microfilm regularly, multiple sets of drawings were distributed at different times during the war for the same aircraft. Of the two prior sets of microfilm that we had for the P-51, the first was dated 1-Jan-1944 and covers the P-51A, P-51B, and P-51C models specifically. Our second set (and Craig’s set, our third set) are what we call “late film” which is dated 15-Sept-1945 and covers the P-51B, P-51C, and P-51D and are self described as the most current set of drawings for the Mustang.
In addition, Cynthia also sent us a manual that accompanied the microfilm – the “Index of Drawings on Microfilm for F-51 Series”, dated 26-January-1950. These documents served as a way to identify what roll, and slide number on that roll, a drawing was located on by using a part number. This document essentially serves as a master drawing list for the P-51D, and carries the disclaimer seen below “There will be no further changes to this microfilm set as it contains the final corrected drawings.”
When looking at drawings on any set of microfilm there is always that frustrating moment when the drawing, or part of a drawing, you need is unreadable. Fortunately, Craig’s set of P-51 drawings will help alleviate many of these moments!
A great example that highlights the quality of the new P-51 drawings is 122-22001, the drawing for the complete elevator assembly for the P-51D. As you can imagine, this drawing is crucial when fabricating and assembling the elevator on the P-51, not to mention providing a general overview of the structure. The comparisons below give an idea of the differences in quality between Craig’s “new” film and the P-51 elevator drawings that were previously available on the AirCorps Library website.
The second drawing that I cannot neglect to mention is one that interests many shops and general enthusiasts. The drawing is part number 102-31016, and is generally referred to as the “doghouse” on the P-51. The doghouse sits aft of the radiator scoop (102-310119) and moves air from the scoop to both the radiator and oil cooler ducts. Our resident P-51 guru Mark Tisler told me that his best guess of how the doghouse got its name is because if you turn it upside down, the rectangular opening below the opening for the scoop looks like a dog could crawl inside and lay down. The official title listed on the doghouse drawing is “Covered Assembly – Fuselage Station 159 to 182.75 Lower”, and is an area that restoration shops know well, and something I get questions about frequently.
While the difference in quality is not as dramatic as the elevator drawing above, it’s in the small details on the doghouse that the quality of the new P-51 drawings can really be seen.
Five pages of the doghouse drawing (102-31016) from Craig’s microfilm can be seen above. The oval opening (seen in images 1, 2, and 3) on the forward side of the doghouse is where the oil cooler is housed and air enters from the scoop. Images 4 & 5 (far right) – the large rectangular opening on the aft side of the doghouse where air transitions into the radiator.
Below – an example from the notes area clearly highlights the difference in quality between the older version of the doghouse drawing (left) and Craig’s microfilm (right).
I couldn’t resist including this next drawing because it not only has the North American Aviation logo, but is also a very recognizable part – the rudder pedals (part number 99-52403). Here again, the differences might appear slight at first glance, but when you are looking to build this type of assembly, being able to see every little detail counts! This drawing is called “Pedal Assembly – Cockpit Rudder Complete” and is applicable for the P-51A, P-51B, P-51C, P-51D, and P-51M.
Last, but certainly not least, is drawing 124-51011: “Instrument System – Equipment Installation Engine Section (Perspective)” for the P-51H. All perspective drawings are fun because they give you both technical information, plus a look at an airframe or component in a more real time view. This particular drawing has three pages, but page two is the most fun because it illustrates how the instrument panel lines connect with the Merlin V-1650 engine on the P-51H. While this is a great example of the quality of Craig’s microfilm, I really wanted to include it because it’s just something that would look nice hanging on your wall!
All of the drawings seen in this blog, along with over 420,000 others, are available to view and purchase by becoming a member of AirCorps Library (for just $6 per month or $60 per year). I would like to extend a special thank you to Cynthia Kenner for allowing us to purchase this microfilm, and being willing to answer my many questions about Craig. I’m sure he would be very proud to know the contribution he has made to the P-51 community.